Today, the Washington Nationals signed free agent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to a one year contract worth somewhere between $8 and $12 million. I wrote about what the market for Jackson looked like on Tuesday, and I really didn’t expect the Nationals to be one of the teams contending for his services. But here we are, and Washington has added their second top pitcher to their rotation this winter, with Jackson’s signing following the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez in December.
Let’s recap really quick. Washington’s 2012 rotation will now consist of the two new members of the team (Gonzalez and Jackson) and two young studs in Jordan Zimmermann and all-world ace Stephen Strasburg. The fifth starter’s spot will likely be a competition between John Lannan, who the team is reportedly shopping after defeating him in arbitration today, and Chien Ming Wang. This looks like a damn good rotation on paper, but are there any holes? In a word….yes. Strasburg repotedly has a 160 inning cap on him this season in his first full season following Tommy John surgery, which would set him up for around 25 or so starts. Zimmermann had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and missed most of 2010. 2011 was his first year back from the surgery, and he threw a career high 161 1/3 innings. The two highest upside pitchers in Washington’s rotations both have concerns about the amount of innings they can throw in 2012.
As for the two veterans, there’s less to worry about. Gonzalez has thrown back to back 200 inning seasons with ERAs in the low-3’s, and his strikeout rate increased by a full batter per inning from 2010 to 2011. Jackson is a perennial underachiever, but his FIP has decreased in every season since 2007, and his strikeout to walk ratio has increased every year since 2008. At age 28, he’s finally coming close to the pitcher many thought he could be as a prospect in the Dodgers organization as a teenager. Furthermore, Jackson has only had two half seasons in the NL since being traded from the Dodgers to the Rays after the 2005 season.
Washington has set themselves up for very well for 2012, and with the core trio of Gonzalez, Strasburg and Zimmermann under team control for a few more seasons, they could get even better. Jackson’s signing solidifies their rotation for 2012, and if they’re able to ink him to an extension during or after the season, their rotation will be an even more fearsome beast for years to come.
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