Detroit Tigers Trading Edwin Jackson Doesn't Make Business Or Baseball Sense
Tigers fans frustrated by the team's lack of headlines since the moment Shane Victorino bounced out to Robinson Cano to end the 2009 baseball season need no longer worry.
On second part, scratch that last part. After all, the news isn't exactly pleasant.
According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of foxsports.com, the Tigers are listening to offers for starter Edwin Jackson. Depending on how you interpret the report, it's possible the team could be actively seeking to trade him.
Specific details of the Tigers' approach this offseason and their available funds are largely unknown. A trade of Jackson would speak volumes about the direction Dave Dombrowski plans to go in this Winter. The answer is a direction that is going to really upset anyone who'd hoped the team would attempt to compete in 2010.
Is it possible the rumor is false? Of course. Any rumor not confirmed by the GM himself can't be thought to be the absolute truth. Biased, ill-informed East-Coast writers have been trying to trade Miguel Cabrera since this spring, but to no avail so far.
Though Dombrowski would not confirm Jackson's place on the trading block, he didn't deny it either.
Foxsports learned of this from "multiple major league sources." Can "multiple major league sources" all be wrong?
Add it all up, this rumor seems to have some legs, and such is worth pondering. Why would the Tigers trade Edwin Jackson? The answer? I have no idea.
I'm not going to pretend to have a beat on the Tigers' financial situation. No one does, but the team's front office themselves.
That said, the Tigers trading Jackson as part of a salary dump makes no sense, even if general sentiment is that the team is strapped for cash.
Granted, Jackson is due for a raise next season, perhaps more than double his two million dollar salary of 2009. Ridding themselves of a five to six million dollar player would not free up that much space, and wouldn't come close to providing them sufficient relief.
There's a saying that you either "go big or go home," and this applies to fire sales. You either shed a ton of salary or you don't even bother. Quite simply, the Tigers don't have too many tradable commodities.
What will provide sufficient relief is Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis' contracts expiring a year from now. I find it hard to believe the Tigers' front office would not dig deep and find a way to keep such a talented pitcher as Jackson around, before major relief comes in a year's time.
Speaking of that dignified trio, I can only hope that Dombrowski's bad experiences in extending Bonderman, Robertson, and Willis have not made him hesitant to extend Jackson, thus leading him to shopping him.
The only one of those moves the Jackson dilemma resembles is the Bonderman extension of 2007, when he was coming off a career season as Jackson is this year. It didn't work out; Bonderman was awful after the All-Star break in 2007 and barely pitched in 2008 and 2009.
So there's a connection there, but the Robertson-Willis cases bear no similarity to this situation at all. Neither pitcher ever did anything to merit those contracts; Nate Robertson has never been anything more than a mediocre major league innings eater, a fifth starter at best. Sure Dontrelle Willis won 22 games before; when Dombrowski extended him, he was coming off a 10-win, 5.17 ERA season.
Dombrowski has no one to blame but himself for those contracts, but they shouldn't be holding him back from being reluctant to pay a pitcher whose shown the kind of promise Jackson has.
As far as baseball sense goes, trading Jackson is basically unjustifiable.
Whether or not Tigers fans want to admit it or not, the Tigers don't have a whole lot going for them; they are a very flawed team. Even if Placido Polanco is retained (which seems unlikely), they have a below-average offense that they can barely afford to improve. Their primary set-up man and closer, Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney, are free agents.
The one thing the Tigers can boast that at least gives them a shot in the very weak AL Central is a stellar front three in their rotation, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Jackson. In the AL Central, only the White Sox boast a front three in the same ballpark as Detroit's.
Losing Jackson takes away any chance of the Tigers competing in 2010. And no matter how much better the Twins look than the other teams on paper, the Tigers themselves proved championships aren't won on paper back in 2008.
Flawed as they are, the Tigers have a team that at the least, should be playing meaningful games in August and potentially September.
Jackson not only is a pivotal part of the team's success next year, but also is a player who can help them for years to come. Tigers fans can rant and rave all they want about Casey Crosby and Jacob Turner and how someday they'll make Jackson expendable; the fact remains those two are prospects. Never a sure thing. Jackson has shown he can be an effective, at-times electric major league starter.
If he becomes expendable some day, then that's that. Until then, he's one of the most important players on the Tigers.
There is of course another possibility; perhaps the Tigers are trying to sell high on Jackson and aren't confident in his ability to be the pitcher who dominated AL lineups before the All-Star break.
Obviously, the Tigers' organization knows Jackson much better than I do, so I'm not even going to bother saying those feelings would be unwarranted.
However, I will say that there is definitely something to be said for giving players a second chance after they struggle. Think of how many big hits Robinson Cano had for the Yankees this year, or how lost the Rockies would've been without Troy Tulowitzki. Take the Tigers themselves for instance, believing in Justin Verlander after a rough 2008 and watching him reward their faith in 2009 with a career season.
If Kenny Williams and the White Sox hadn't have been so eager to rid themselves of Javier Vazquez and Nick Swisher, maybe the AL Central would've been a three-team race going into September.
This season, Jackson threw 200 innings for the first time in his career. What if he simply got tired? Certainly that could be a reason but not the only one, as it was well-documented that Jackson was heavily relying on his fastball due to his slider losing its bite and becoming a very hittable pitch.
At the worst, he looks like a very serviceable mid-rotation starter with the ability to be more. He is just 26 by the way.
Everything I've said was stated under the assumption the Tigers are still trying to win. After all, Dave Dombrowski recently tried to assure fans that was the organization's ultimate goal.
He can show the Tiger fan base that is the organization's intention by holding on to Edwin Jackson, and finding a place for him in the team's budget until the team gets much-needed relief after the 2010 season.
Money is tight, and attendance was down last year, but is trading an all-star really a way to put fans in the seats?
There is no excuse for Jackson to not be wearing a Tigers' uniform next season, unless of course the team simply has no money.
And if that's the case, Dombrowski's supporters might be out of excuses for the Tigers' GM. Don't expect me to have his back any time soon.
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