Edwin Jackson's Wild Journey

  • Monday, February 6, 2012 12:14 PM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Baseball America named a 20-year-old Edwin Jackson its top Dodgers prospect for the 2004 season and wrapped up its scouting report with this: “He’s the best homegrown pitching prospect the Dodgers have developed since Pedro Martinez, and they don’t plan on letting this one get away.”

Well, it’s a funny thing about plans …

Edwin Jackson is not a bust, and yet the Dodgers did let him get away, and so did the Rays, and so did the Tigers, and well, you get the point. 2012 will, at age 28, be Jackson’s 10th season – although the first three of those were cups of coffee – and after signing a one-year contact with the Nationals, he will be pitching for his seventh team.

When he tosses his first pitch for Washington, Jackson will join an exclusive list. Through Baseball-Reference’s play index, I found that there have been only six other pitchers in baseball history to play for as many as seven teams in their first 10 seasons while also compiling at least 10 WAR (Jackson has 10.7 through his first nine years). Stranger still is the fact that two of them, Octavio Dotel and Miguel Batista, spent time on the 2011 Cardinals, just like Jackson. Fittingly for a trio of baseball nomads, none of them were in St. Louis for the full season.

Rk Player WAR From To Age G GS IP ERA+
1 Octavio Dotel 7 12.6 1999 2008 25-34 500 34 708.0 122
2 Miguel Batista 7 10.2 1992 2004 21-33 292 152 1100.2 103
3 Omar Olivares 7 14.9 1990 1999 22-31 283 201 1373.2 100
4 Gregg Olson 7 12.7 1988 1997 21-30 456 0 500.1 132
5 Greg Harris 7 12.2 1981 1990 25-34 417 75 975.0 111
6 Ken Brett 7 10.9 1967 1977 18-28 249 174 1321.0 94
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/6/2012.

Jackson has put together an odd career thus far, from beating Randy Johnson in his big league debut on his 20th birthday, to getting traded six times in six years, to throwing 149 pitches and issuing eight walks during a 2010 no-hitter, to finally settling for a one-year deal this offseason when everyone expected a multi-year arrangement. But one year also makes sense for a player shuttling around MLB at a feverish pace. To recap Jackson’s journey, per Baseball-Reference:

Jan. 5, 2001: Drafted by the Dodgers
Jan. 14, 2006: Traded to the Devil Rays
Dec. 10, 2008: Traded to the Tigers
Dec. 8, 2009: Traded to the Diamondbacks
July 30, 2010: Traded to the White Sox
July 27, 2011: Traded to the Blue Jays, then again to the Cardinals
Feb. 2, 2012: Signed as a free agent with the Nationals

Jackson’s career seems forever haunted by the guy who was the No. 1 prospect and outdueled the Big Unit in his debut, looking “like a sure-fire superstar,” in the words of Baseball Prospectus prospect guru Kevin Goldstein.

He’s not that guy, for the reasons Goldstein mentions. But because of what people expected him to be, the guy Edwin Jackson truly is can get lost in the disappointed sighing and head-shaking. Over the past four seasons, he has averaged about 32 starts, 200 innings and 3 WAR. Despite his shortcomings, he’s durable and solid, a valuable pitcher to have on your staff.

So why can’t Jackson keep the same jersey for more than a year? Some of it is circumstance, in that at each of the past two trading deadlines, he has been on a team in a position to deal away players.

But it also seems as though Jackson has landed in that rarified middle ground between results and potential that makes him the perfect trade chip. Some other team always values him more than the one that currently employs him, perhaps thinking it will be the organization that finally turns him into the superstar so many people expected. Jackson is good enough that someone always wants him – but not so good that anyone makes sure to keep him.

So while the Nationals are probably happy to add a quality pitcher to their 2012 rotation, one day soon -- maybe in July, maybe after the season – they will be able to add their name to the growing list of teams that let Edwin Jackson get away.

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