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Edwin Jackson went 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA in 32 games last season.
The Nationals already had a five-man starting rotation. Actually, they had a seven-man rotation before adding Edwin Jackson to the puzzle today.
So why give Jackson a one-year, $10 million contract and create an even bigger pitching logjam?
"We saw an opportunity here to acquire a young, hard-throwing, power-pitching, innings-eating-type of starting pitcher, and we thought it was a good value at a good term," general manager Mike Rizzo said in announcing the deal. "You can never have enough good, quality starting pitching, and we felt it was a good enough value to make him a National."
Expected to command a much-larger deal when the offseason began -- perhaps getting as many as five guaranteed years -- Jackson instead saw his price come down, especially over the last two weeks when he let clubs know he was willing to sign for one year. Rizzo said the Nationals got in touch with agent Scott Boras at that point and worked out details of the deal, which is still contingent on the pitcher passing a physical.
Jackson certainly comes to Washington with a strong pedigree. Though his career 60-60 record and 4.46 ERA look pedestrian at first glance, the 28-year-old right-hander had made strides over the last three seasons (35-30, 3.96 ERA). During that time, he also fired a no-hitter (albeit one that included eight walks and 149 pitches) and started four postseason games for the World Series champion Cardinals.
More than anything, Jackson has the kind of power arm Rizzo loves. And he now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez in what has suddenly become one of the deepest rotations in baseball and perhaps one that can contend for a playoff berth right now.
"We feel that we're a team that's going to be very, very competitive in a really, really difficult division," Rizzo said. "Our goal is to play meaningful games in September and beyond. And we feel the acquisition of this kind of talent allows us, and gets us a step closer, to doing that."
Jackson has long been on Rizzo's radar. The right-hander was a candidate to be acquired from the Diamondbacks at the July trade deadline in 2010. He wound up going to the White Sox, though there was talk at the time of him immediately getting flipped to Washington in exchange for slugger Adam Dunn.
Possessor of one of the strongest arms in the league -- his fastball averaged 94.7 mph last season -- Jackson has experienced plenty of highs and lows during a nine-year career that has already seen him wear the uniforms of six different franchises: the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Cardinals.
He tossed that bizarre, 149-pitch no-hitter on June 25, 2010, while pitching for Arizona. He's also surrendered 11 or more hits in a start eight times in his career.
But the Nationals saw progress over his last few seasons, particularly when he went a combined 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA for Chicago and St. Louis in 2011. He's also proven durable, making at least 31 starts each of the last five seasons.
"We think he's got a bit of an upside left," Rizzo said, adding the Nationals hope to tweak Jackson's delivery in an attempt to minimize some of his struggles from the windup.
The signing does, however, create a major logjam at the back end of the Nationals' rotation. With Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez and now Jackson assured of jobs, the club has three more starters (Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler) currently under contract but room for only one of them come Opening Day.
Despite growing rumors that the Nationals are attempting to trade Lannan (who earlier this morning lost his arbitration case against the club and thus will earn $5 million in 2012) a club source said no deal is imminent.
Rizzo also suggested his team could report for spring training in 2 1/2 weeks with all eight starters in camp and then let things sort out from out.
"We did not acquire Edwin Jackson to trade another starting pitcher," Rizzo said. "If, in spring training or before spring training, a deal comes up that we can't pass up and positively impacts our ballclub, we'll certainly be open-minded about it. ... But I like the competition aspect of this, and it's going to be a lot of good pitchers out there in spring training this year. The best 25 guys will go north."