Heading into this year's baseball offseason, the free-agent market appeared to be pretty thin.
Since then, it's only gotten thinner, with many of the top names signing on with teams during the Winter Meetings.
There still remain some solid options for teams looking to add depth and dependability, however, and one of those options is right-handed starter Edwin Jackson.
Jackson, 28, has bounced around the majors plenty during his nine-year career, but now is experiencing free agency for the first time after a very solid season with the Chicago White Sox and World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The Baltimore Orioles, in desperate need of dependable, young and affordable starting pitching, would be smart to make a strong push for this talented player, as he'd fit right into the team's plans.
Looking down Jackson's career stat line, there isn't anything that would jump out at you. He's not that type of player.
He's a complementary piece, a third- or fourth-slot starter on a playoff team. But he's easily one of the best complementary starters out there, and if the O's intend to build around the young pitchers they have, such as Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta, then the team needs to get someone who can help lead the youngsters and take some weight off their shoulders. Staff ace-by-default Jeremy Guthrie can only do so much on his own.
Jackson had a strong finish to the 2011 season, going 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA over 78 innings pitched for the Cardinals. Over the entire 2011 season, he pitched to the tune of a 2.79 ERA and 12-9 record over 199.2 innings.
Having an arm like that in the Orioles rotation would help immensely in taking some pressure off of the rest of the starters. He's a proven innings eater, having thrown at least 183.1 innings in each of the last four seasons, and twice topping the 200 innings plateau. Top that off with a respectable ERA each year, and you're looking at a virtual Guthrie duplicate.
At age 28, Jackson would be looking for a deal with some years on it, at least three or four. And while the Orioles have a policy of not handing out deals to pitchers longer than three years, there's been talk that they'd go to four for Jackson, considering his age and durability. What's more, they wouldn't have to break the bank in such a contract, having some money left over to address other depth needs.
With the uncertainty that is young starting pitchers (like the prospects the O's have), as well as not knowing how newly-signed Japanese lefty starter Tsuyoshi Wada will pan out, the Orioles absolutely need to add to their rotation with at least one quality piece. While they don't have the farm system to be able to swing a trade for such a player, they almost have to go to free agency, and looking at that crop of players, Jackson is simply the way to go.
Of course, there's always the fear that Jackson wouldn't want to come to a perennial loser, especially just after winning the World Series for the first time, but hey, money talks. At least make an honest effort to sign the man, Mr. Duquette, and O's fans will be able to live with it if he chooses someone else.
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