FanGraphs: Nationals Sign Jackson, But To What End?

On Thursday, the Washington Nationals signed Edwin Jackson to a one-year contract. They haven't actually signed Edwin Jackson to a one-year contract - Jackson still has to pass a physical - but that didn't stop the team from announcing the move, which is going to be really awkward if it turns out that Jackson is broken or dead. The Nationals are supremely confident that Jackson will pass the exam just fine.

So, what now? What does this mean? Why do this? At FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli tackles the subject and raises concerns:

It’s possible that the Jackson signing represents an attempt on the part of Washington simply to not be mediocre. Or to be less mediocre. That’s a possible, if entirely uninspiring, explanation for the deal — because there’s value in being "just fine." Furthermore, it’s possible that the Nationals see value in Jackson as a player either to flip for a decent prospect at the deadline, or from whom to gain a compensation pick in the 2013 draft after Jackson becomes a Type B free agent when the season is over.

For the Nationals to become actual contenders, though, at least one of the following three names will have to appear in fewer of manager Davey Johnson‘s lineups than is projected: Roger Bernadina, Ian Desmond, and Adam LaRoche.

Cistulli's right about the fact that, even with Jackson, the Nationals can't be thought of as NL East favorites. The Phillies are really good. The Braves are really good. The Marlins could be really good. The Mets are there. The Nationals are trying to make up ground.

But he might overstate his position, because, ultimately, Jackson's an upgrade, and the Nationals are in the market for upgrades. Upgrades allow the Nationals to move closer to contention. The Nationals are better with Jackson than without him, and Jackson isn't costing them too much, so this is a neat move that improves the team's chances of seeing the playoffs.

Sure, the Nationals have other outstanding issues. Cistulli mentions some of them. The Nationals are not a perfect or even necessarily complete ballclub. But the Nationals are close to being in the playoff hunt. Right? Edwin Jackson makes the Nationals better. Right? Jackson isn't coming at an exorbitant cost. Right?

The Nationals got better on Thursday. That makes it a good Thursday for a Nationals team with big dreams.

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