As a recurring column idea, Bill will expound upon one interesting transaction that occurred on a particular day in baseball history. It won’t always be the most exciting or most impactful transaction, but always something interesting. Feel free to share which transactions stand out to you in the comments.
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I am cheating a bit and doing a transaction from April 11, as I was off over the weekend. On April 11 last year, the Athletics inked veteran hurler Edwin Jackson to a minor league contract. Jackson, 35 at the time, was coming off a solid 2018 campaign for the A’s, posting a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts between late June and the end of the regular season. Jackson, though, had been very inconsistent throughout his career which is why he could only command a minor league deal.
Jackson wouldn’t pitch for the A’s in the majors in 2019, allowing nine runs in 9 2/3 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Blue Jays purchased Jackson’s contract from the A’s in mid-May. After three Triple-A relief appearances, they added him to the major league roster. He started on May 15 against the Giants, going five innings and allowing three runs. It was a pedestrian performance, but quite memorable because he set the new record for appearances with unique teams at 14. Reliever Octavio Dotel had previously held the record at 13. Jackson’s previous teams: Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, and Orioles along with the A’s and Blue Jays.
Jackson is currently signed to a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks. Barring a trade if a 2020 season eventually happens, he won’t be able to add on to his current record this year.
Jackson’s longevity — 17 seasons, going on 18 — is a testament to how valuable teams find the ability to take the ball every five games as well as versatility. Jackson exemplified both. From 2007-13, Jackson made at least 31 starts. Jackson was used strictly as a reliever in 2015 and gradually transitioned back to full-time starting as the decade waned. His overall numbers aren’t very impressive: 107-133, 4.78 ERA, 1,508 strikeouts and 779 walks over 1,960 innings. Most pitchers with an ERA nearing 5.00 wash out of baseball quickly, but Jackson has somehow survived. Since 2003, when Jackson debuted, the only pitchers (min. 1,000 innings) with a worse ERA are Rodrigo López, Jeff Francis, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Carlos Silva.
No one is threatening Jackson’s record. Bartolo Colon, who didn’t pitch in the majors last year, is the closest threat having played for 11 different franchises. Among those who played last year, Fernando Rodney is also at 11 while Jesse Chavez, Tyler Clippard, Zach Duke, and Erik Kratz are at nine. You may notice a trend: with the exception of Kratz, these are all pitchers. If Jackson’s record is ever to be broken, it will likely be by a fellow pitcher and likely a reliever at that. Current baseball trends have teams relying more on relievers and less on starters. The Rays have been one of several teams championing the “bullpenning” concept. Given the way mid-level relievers tend to bounce around from team to team, the smart money is on a reliever having played for 15 different franchises.