UPDATE: Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that it’s a done deal at four years and $52 million, with an official announcement coming once Jackson passes a physical exam.
Late last night the Cubs were said to be the “frontrunner” for Edwin Jackson and now Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that the two sides are closing in on a four-year, $52 million deal.
After failing to land a huge contract as a free agent last offseason Jackson opted for a one-year, $11 million deal from the Nationals, who oddly did not make him a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer that would have guaranteed them a first-round draft pick when he signed elsewhere. Instead the Nationals replaced him with Dan Haren for one year, $13 million and will now let Jackson walk for nothing.
Jackson’s numbers were similar to 2011, but for whatever reason he drew significantly more interest this time around. His overall production and strikeout rates have never quite matched his raw stuff, but Jackson’s started at least 30 games in six straight seasons despite being just 29 years old.
During the past three seasons he made 94 starts and threw 599 innings with a 4.10 ERA. Over that same period Anibal Sanchez–who the Cubs reportedly thought they had signed for five years and $75 million–made 95 starts and threw 587 innings with a 3.70 ERA. Given those numbers and the fact that Sanchez was helped by more pitcher-friendly environments $52 million for Jackson seems reasonable after Sanchez got $80 million from the Tigers.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.