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The Amazing Instability of Edwin Jackson

Edwin Jackson is not happy with the way his market is playing out. News came out Tuesday, via Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, that Jackson has multiple three-year offers but would instead prefer a one-year deal. As Dave Cameron noted earlier, this plan could easily backfire. Still, the fact that Jackson — a pitcher with three consecutive 3.5 WAR seasons and a 92 ERA- during that span — feels the need to employ this strategy speaks volumes about his perception in the marketplace.

This is just more instability in a career rife with it. Jackson’s trade history is always the first thing that comes up in any discussion of his talents, and it’s difficult to overstate just how extensive that history is. Steve Slowinski produced the following visualization after the sixth — and last — time Jackson was traded prior to reaching free agency:

Throughout his career, Jackson has always been the pitcher who wasn’t quite good enough for a team to make a long-term commitment — but he always has been good enough that a contending team could use him. The Rays liked him, but trading a strength (pitching) for offensive power was an easy move to make. For the Tigers, Max Scherzer seemed to have more talent than Jackson — and at a younger age — and although things haven’t broken that way quite yet, Scherzer is a good pitcher who has potential. Nobody would criticize the Diamondbacks for flipping Jackson for Daniel Hudson. The White Sox arguably got the least for Jackson, bringing back Zach Stewart and Jason Frasor. And then the Blue Jays flipped Jackson for big-talent Colby Rasmus.

The point is, it’s not that teams necessarily wanted to get rid of Jackson. It’s just that the combination of his teams’ situations and the talent offered was too much to turn down.

All of which makes the market collapse we’ve seen for him even more surprising. It wasn’t difficult to imagine some team hitching its wagons to Jackson. But his request of a five-year contract allowed other pitchers to fill spots that otherwise may have been reserved for him. Perhaps a more realistic three-year deal would have been the best way to go. But now it looks like Jackson could endure yet another season of instability, with a one-year contract that could see him as the final piece for a playoff team — or, once again, the being offered at the trade deadline.