The most obvious shortcoming for the Chicago Cubs last season was a lack of good starting pitching. One of the two winningest starters on the team was Paul Maholm, who only pitched four months with the Cubs before being sent to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline. That’s what kind of year it was for the Cubs last season.
So, the need to upgrade in this area seems clear. Jeff Samardzija (how I hate spelling out his name), Matt Garza and hopefully Travis Wood are the returning blocks, and Carlos Villanueva and two Scotts (Baker and Feldman) have also been acquired in the offseason.
But something was still missing, so the Cubs bid on Anibal Sanchez, and thought they had him signed until he went back to Detroit. And even though there’s no “B” in the name “Edwin Jackson,” it seems clear that he is, in fact, the Cubs’ four-year, $52 million Plan B for the starting rotation. While we’re on the subject of letter B, it’s a signing that baffles me, to be perfectly honest about it.
Jackson’s movement around the big leagues over the course of his career is the first red flag. This will be the eighth team Jackson has pitched for over the course of just over a decade in the majors. Jackson was asked about this at the press conference at Wrigley Field to announce his signing, and he indicated that people around the majors must like him. Actually, the exact opposite is more likely true. If somebody saw great things in Edwin Jackson, they would have held onto him. And yet nobody has, at least not since he left Tampa after the 2008 season.
Jackson also has a career losing record, and has lost double-digit games in four of his six years as a full-time starter. He lost nine games in the other two seasons, if you’re curious. He’s a better pitcher at night (4.15 ERA) than in the day (4.88 ERA), and he struggles in the early months of the season (7-12 in March and April, and 9-15 in the month of May).
And most discouraging of all is the way he has pitched at Wrigley Field. With only three career outings in the Friendly Confines, the sample size is admittedly small. However, a 1-2 record, 7.94 ERA, and four home runs allowed in 17 innings pitched all speak for themselves. Judging from the way the Cubs have roughed him up at Wrigley, what’s to stop other teams from doing the same?
For some reason, many Cubs fans appear to be behind the move, from what I’ve been able to gather on Twitter. Maybe true fans are just supposed to get on board with these moves; faith is belief without evidence, after all. But faith is needed in order to consider this a good addition on the Cubs’ part, because the evidence — if it’s there to begin with — is buried much deeper than I’m able to dig.