It’s painful to recall the offseason two years ago when the Cubs were in pursuit of Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers initial offer to Sanchez was in the 4-year, $48 million range, so the Cubs swooped in with a reported offer that topped out at 5-years, $75 million. MLB Trade Rumors went so far as to post a story with the headline: Cubs to sign Anibal Sanchez.
It was Theo Epstein’s first full offseason with the Cubs and this would have been by far his biggest signing. Sanchez was coming off of a solid but unspectacular season in 2012 as he compiled a 3.86 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 195.2 innings pitched. Despite not having stats that jumped off the page, Sanchez had pitched to a 3.48 K/BB and looked like a strong investment.
Of course, the excitement over possibly signing Anibal Sanchez was all for nothing as the Tigers came back and topped the Cubs offer by $5 million. Sanchez went on to have a Cy Young caliber season in 2013 and the Cubs went on to sign Edwin Jackson to a 4-year, $52 million contract.
For a mid-rotation starter and reliable innings eater, the contract was not outlandish. Jackson had always shown the potential to be more than just a mid-rotation guy, but the pitcher he had been over the course of his career was a guy that would give you nearly 200 innings a year with a decent high 3’s ERA.
I don’t know where that guy went, but he’s not in Chicago.
Since joining the Cubs, Jackson has seen his fastball velocity slowly erode, sitting at 92.7 this year after consistently hitting 94.5 throughout his career up until the 2011 season. As his fastball velocity has dropped his ERA has soared, reaching 5.68 this season after a 4.98 ERA last year.
The Cubs are apparently hoping that no one is paying attention to how bad Edwin has been, because Jon Heyman is reporting that Theo and Jed are actively shopping Jackson to give him the classic “change of scenery:”
While it may be unlikely that the Cubs can convince a team that all Jackson needs is a change of scenery, there is still a chance that they can find an interested team assuming a significant chunk of his salary is eaten.
Jackson will make $11 million each of the next two seasons. On the open market, he could likely land a 1-year deal for $5.5 million so if the Cubs eat half of the $26 million remaining on his salary, they may be able to find a team willing to take him off their hands. That is, if a team still sees him as a starting pitcher.
Unfortunately for the Cubs and Jackson, he appears to be relief pitcher material at this point. If teams see Jackson as a reliever then the Cubs may have to eat around $20 million of what they owe. Are the Cubs willing to do that? I’m not sure that it makes sense unless they’re receiving a mildly interesting prospect in return and that doesn’t seem likely.
If the Cubs can convince a pitching hungry team that Jackson can still be a viable starter in this league, there may be a chance that they can unload him and a portion of his salary, opening up a rotation spot for guys like Dallas Beeler, Eric Jokisch, Chris Rusin and Dan Straily to compete for.
While it remains unlikely, the idea of Jackson leaving town is as exciting as it gets on the North Side these days.