Tuesday, July 27, 2010

3 reasons why the Nationals should avoid Edwin Jackson like the plague

MLB Trade Rumors first reported a month ago yesterday that the Nats were interested in Edwin Jackson. I thought the interest was just going to blow over, as teams have "interest" in dozens of players at any given time. But on Saturday, Jackson's name was tied to the Nats again. And yesterday, Tim Dierkes reported on two different rumors, one where the Nats would get Jackson in a 3-way deal that would send Adam Dunn to the White Sox and another where the Nats would simply acquire Jackson for prospects. There are more than just 3 reasons I think making a move for Edwin Jackson would be a bad idea, but these are 3 reasons I think are specific to the Nats.

1. In a deal for Dunn, Jackson is worth less to the Nats than an elite prospect would be.

Daniel Hudson alone is worth more than Edwin Jackson to me. If the Nats can snag him alone for Dunn, they've made out okay at least. If, as rumored, they can come up with another nice prospect like Danks/Flowers/Morel, or even a guy a tier below that, they've blown a Jackson-for-Dunn deal out of the water. The prospects they can get back for Dunn can come close to Jackson's performance right off the bat, but will also be controllable (and cheaper) for many more seasons. This leads into my next point.

2. Jackson is expensive and only controllable through 2011.

Jackson signed a 2 year, $13.35 million extension with the Diamondbacks in February, with $8.35 of the payment planned for the 2011 season. He stood at 4 years and 70 days of ML service time going into the 2010 season and is more or less a lock to hit the 6 years of service time needed to reach unrestricted free agency at some point next year (thanks to Cot's for the info).

While Jackson is on the borderline between Type A and Type B status in Eddie Bajek's latest Elias Rankings Update on MLB Trade Rumors, his value there is trending downwards. It stands at 70.663 now while it stood at 73.050 on July 14 and 74.41 on May 23 (a score of 71.5 is currently the cut-off in the NL between types A and B). Jackson will need to repeat (or better) his 2009 performance in 2011 to be a type A, as the rankings only take into account the last 2 seasons. The Elias Rankings involve some combination of games, innings pitched, wins, ERA and K's, and Jackson's win total and ERA this year have seriously underwhelmed. He'll have to work himself back towards the 13-9 record and 3.62 ERA he put up last year to make it back.

While there is always a chance the Nats retain him into his free agent years, he's not worth as much to the team them. You trade for young pitchers in part to try and get as many years out of them as you can at less than market value. Once pitchers hit free agency, you start paying true value or more for them.

3. Jackson is potentially overworked.

This is my biggest beef with Jackson. Not every pitcher is made equal, and I certainly am not an expert on pitching, but if I had a penny for every red flag there is concerning Jackson's workload, I would be a rich man.

Jackson's 149 pitch no-hitter leads the league in pitches thrown by 17. He's atop the charts by an obscene amount in total Pitcher Abuse Points (151623 to second place Roy Halladay's 84331). You can check out this Baseball Prospectus sortable stats page if you want to sort through these things yourselves.

Some pitchers, Livan Hernandez for example, can handle a lot of Pitcher Abuse Points. But the Nats are paying Livan $900k. If I'm paying a guy $8 million+, I want to know for sure that he isn't damaged goods.

(Some links on Jackson's workload: 6/2009 (Baseball Daily Digest), 6/2010 (FJB), 6/2010 (Sabernomics), 7/2010 (AZ Central)

If the Nats could acquire him for a combination of fading prospects like Shairon Martis and middle relievers like Sean Burnett and Joel Peralta, sure. Jackson can an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter But if the Nats have to give up Adam Dunn or anyone that sniffs their top 15 prospects for him, I'll pass.

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