At 41-58 heading into Thursday, the Chicago Cubs are mired in last place in the National League Central Division. Sitting 14 1/2 games out of first, the Cubs are the only one in the competitive Division that can effectively be ruled out of contention. Chicago isn’t only the worst team in the NL Central, but perhaps in all of baseball. Selling at the trade deadline seems, in a word, likely.
The Cubs wouldn’t love to move anyone as much as starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Problem is, finding a taker for the starter could be next to impossible.
Jackson came to Chicago with a world of promise and the team was happy to give him a four-year $52 million deal back in 2013. Fresh off of a modest 2012 when he went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA with the Washington Nationals, the deal appeared somewhat suspect. Two years later, it’s looking like a disaster.
Last season, Jackson lost a league-high 18 games and tallied an ERA just under 5.00. His 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings was significantly lower than the 8.0 he posted the year before and overall, it looked like the Cubs had made a mistake with the deal. This year, he hasn’t done much to change that.
Jackson is 5-10 on the season and while he’s striking out more batters as his 8.1 K/9 innings ratio will attest, he’s also walking the most batters he has in his career since his disastrous 2007 campaign with the Tampa Bay Rays (5-15 with a 5.76 ERA) while sporting an ugly 5.61 ERA.
The unfortunate aspect for Chicago is that due to that four-year albatross of a contract, they may need to live with two more years of him. The Cubs want to trade Jackson – that much is clear. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman confirmed that recently and with such a poor return-on-investment, that makes perfect sense. However, Jackson’s weak pitching also means Chicago will have a difficult time finding a suitor.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer believes the Yankees make sense, but Heyman seems to shoot that down. New York expressing interest would be hard to believe. They have the money to take on the salary so the remaining $22 million left on his deal after this year is of little consequence. However, Jackson has struggled mightily in a low-pressure situation pitching for one of baseball’s worst teams. The idea that he can suddenly turn it around under the bright lights of New York seems far-fetched.
In addition, Jackson isn’t the type of pitcher that appears poised to help his team in the playoffs. While possessing some postseason experience appearing in nine games, his career marks there are lackluster (1-2 record with a 5.46 ERA). Overall, he’s not the kind of pitcher that has the successful postseason track record teams want.
None of this is to suggest that he’s entirely washed up. Jackson is only 30 and may have some good years left. In addition, a change of scenery may certainly help and he was serviceable as recent as two seasons ago. Still, based on what he’s accomplished in Chicago, the Cubs will be fortunate if they can find someone to take him off of their hands.