Ownership could not have made circumstances more obvious, that last year’s Rafael Soriano signing was a panic move. Cashman admitted that the Steinbrenners and Randy Levine overruled him at Soriano’s very own press conference, and Hank later stated,
“People are missing the point; we didn’t get Lee but we got the second-best reliever next to our guy.”
This all happened after Levine met with Soriano’s infamous agent Scott Boras, and as if the panic-driven stars aligned in mid-January again, Hal Steinbrenner met with Scott Boras to discuss Edwin Jackson Wednesday night. While the right-hander is regarded as the best remaining starting pitcher, he doesn’t fit into their plans to cut payroll. Yet the falling price of Jackson makes it seem more and more likely that he will be the Yankees latest panic signing.
I won’t deny the team needs pitching, and neither will Cashman, but the organization is full of depth on its last stretch of maturing. Scranton’s rotation is chock-full of starting pitchers that could, given the opportunity, help the major league club. Unfortunately, the Yankees aren’t known for their patience with starting pitcher prospects. It appears that ownership would rather spend money on the best possible pitcher left, than to take a chance on the five guys in AAA. Spending money to fix problems is not uncommonly associated with the Steinbrenner name, and perhaps it’s become instinct for the brothers, and though the method might be nonsensical, there remains plenty to like about Edwin Jackson.
For one, Jackson is young and full of potential. Since 2007, Jackson has spent time with five different clubs, during this time he grew less reliant on his mid-90’s fastball, and increased usage of his slider. He also moved on from the command issues that haunted his early years, posting a 3.0 BB/9 from 2009 to 2011. The results subsequently lowered his FIP every single year; Jackson hasn’t been able to combine all his success into one season though. In 2008 and 2009 he lowered his BB/9 but dealt with a low GB%/FB%. (0.98/0.92 respectively) In 2010, Jackson fixed his GB%/FB% (1.55) and maintained his BB/9 (3.35), but dealt with a low LOB%. (69.6%) In 2011, he kept his GB%/FB% stable (1.40), but faced a high 24.9 LD% and a .330 BABIP. Still, as a 28 year old, the trends appear optimistic about his ability to progress as a pitcher.
I have some trepidation about Jackson’s inconsistencies, but his 2011 and 2010 3.8 fWAR are impressive for a young starter. Other than Sabathia, no Yankee pitcher has posted a 3.8 fWAR or higher over the last 3 years. Even if Jackson doesn’t continue with these improving trends, his consistent wins above replacement indicate that he’d be the team’s number two starter. This sets a Jackson signing far apart from the Soriano signing, in that, he fills a need on the team. Assuming the rumors are true, and Jackson’s five year contract demands have diminished, the Yankees might finally find themselves a quality contract for a projectable starter. Of course, giving the minor leaguers a chance and looking forward to next year’s pitching market is the smartest long term decision for the team, yet I don’t expect the Steinbrenners to stray from their need to spend. Some things don’t change, but even if the Yankees make the panic move of signing Jackson, I look forward to an ownership mistake finally working out.
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