In the third installment of Where Are They Now (Nick Punto and Octavio Dotel previously), we will take a look at Edwin Jackson, a starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals, a team that currently possesses the best record in all of baseball.
First, let’s take a look back and account for the contribution Jackson made for the Cardinals last season on the road to a World Series championship. Acquired in the big trade deadline deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that included Dotel to the Cards and Colby Rasmus being shipped out of town, Jackson immediately made an impact for the Cardinals, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts. Jackson, along with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, stabilized a rotation that for the duration of the early part of the season had been wildly inconsistent. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Jackson started to taper off a bit and underperformed in the postseason, putting up a 1-1 record with a subpar 5.60 ERA. He was hung with the loss in Game 4 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers, where he lasted only 5.1 innings and gave up 3 earned runs. On the whole, the Cardinals really got everything out of Jackson that they could have possibly hoped for, especially down the stretch of the regular season when they desperately needed wins to catch the Atlanta Braves atop the Wild Card standings.
Fast forward to this past offseason. Jackson, a free agent, opted for a one-year deal with the Nationals for $11 million, an interesting decision, given that he reportedly had multiple 3-year offers on the table from other teams. According to sources close to Jackson, the decision was made in an attempt to have a big season in 2012 and attract a lucrative multi-year offer this upcoming offseason. Keep in mind, as well, that Scott Boras, the most prominent agent in all of sports, representes Jackson and was sure to be in his ear to think about a payday for 2013 and beyond. With the motivation of a big contract in the back of his mind, Jackson has had a solid season for the 1st place Nationals, despite what his record might indicate. Yes, Jackson has a 7-8 record, but he also has a 3.69 ERA and 121 strikeouts in only 144 innings. In a rotation with the “Strasburg’s” of the world, Jackson is not being asked to be Superman. His 3.83 average run support per start ranks him 81st out of a qualifying 99 pitchers so while he may be pitching well, the Nationals don’t seem to produce with the bat to complement Jackson’s quality starts. Jackson has, however, dipped in performance of late. On June 23, Jackson’s ERA sat a microscopic 2.91 but has since shot up to 3.69 including a string of 9 starts, only 3 being quality starts. If indeed the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo do follow through on their promise to shut down Stephen Strasburg before the playoffs, the Nationals will rely heavily on the arm of Jackson, who now has the playoff pedigree, albeit not great, that is necessary for postseason success.
Looking back, Jackson was exactly what the Cardinals wanted last season: a rental starter that could chew up innings. With such a stock of starting pitching this season, the Cardinals did not need to re-sign Jackson, and Jackson did not need the Cardinals on the open market. Another mutually beneficial stint and departure for a World Champion Cardinal player.