Cubs ring in new year with signing of Jackson
Righty inks four-year, $52 million deal, introduced at Wrigley Field
CHICAGO -- The Cubs gave Edwin Jackson quite a wedding present.
Jackson, 29, who will marry Erika Zanders on Saturday, signed a four-year, $52 million contract on Wednesday with the Cubs. The deal was consummated after general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Dale Sveum met with the free-agent right-hander in Newport Beach, Calif., at the same time that the Cubs were courting free agent Anibal Sanchez.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, met with Sanchez in Florida. Both Jackson and Sanchez fit what the Cubs were looking for -- young, durable pitchers whom they could build around. Epstein's meeting with Sanchez was leaked; Hoyer's was not.
"It's hard to sign free-agent players in general and we knew we were going to go after both guys," Hoyer said. "We did a better job hiding our [meeting with Jackson]."
Jackson has been busy with wedding preparations, and that, plus the holidays, delayed the official signing until Wednesday.
He's the third starting pitcher the Cubs have added this offseason, joining Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. The team also signed Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to a two-year, $9.5 million deal, and selected reliever Hector Rondon in the Rule 5 Draft.
The Cubs had reportedly offered Sanchez a five-year, $77 million deal, which came as a surprise after the team's "buy low" approach with Baker and Feldman, who both signed one-year deals. Sanchez eventually signed an $80 million contract with the Tigers.
"We want to put a great team on the field every year," Hoyer said, "and we've also been clear that we're building for something that we think is very special and we want to make sure any free-agent signings of this magnitude fit into that plan.
"Edwin is 29 years old, and he's had six consecutive seasons making 30-plus starts," Hoyer said. "He's proven his durability and proven his talent, but he's also at an age where we think he can get even better and an age where he fits into what we're trying to do age-wise and talent-wise with our roster. We felt this was a player who met both criteria. He can help us in 2013 and be a big part of the core of what we're trying to build."
Jackson is coming off a 10-11 record and 4.03 ERA last season with the Nationals. He has averaged 199 innings the last five seasons. He's well traveled, having pitched for the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, D-backs, White Sox and Cardinals as well as the Nationals, and has a career 70-71 record and 4.40 ERA.
The Cubs will be his sixth different team in the last six Opening Days. What gives?
"I think everyone likes me," said Jackson, laughing. "The only thing I take from it is that as long as people are going out and trying to get me on their team, it says a lot. Most of the times I've been traded, it's to a playoff contending team. I never looked at it as a negative. As long as someone wants me and they want me on their team and around their players and in their clubhouse, it's not necessarily a bad thing. I don't have to worry about the bad rap on my name."
Jackson did change agents last summer, leaving Scott Boras, but he didn't want to talk about that.
"I think a lot of his recent stops were due to the fact that you couldn't sign him to an extension and teams were willing to take what they could get in trade rather than lose him for nothing," Hoyer said.
Jackson is used to moving around. His father, Edwin Sr., is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class, and Edwin Jr. was born in Neu-Ulm, Germany.
Jackson will be reunited with Matt Garza on the Cubs. The two were teammates in Tampa Bay in 2008, and they talked about the Cubs before the deal was completed.
"[Garza] definitely loves it here and he was excited for us to have the opportunity to pitch together again," Jackson said.
Adding more pitching has been a priority for the Cubs, who used a franchise-record 30 pitchers in 2012. Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Garza was shut down July 21 because of right elbow problems. Garza began throwing in mid-December, and Hoyer reported everything has gone well. Baker has said he'll be ready in Spring Training.
The list of Cubs starters now includes Jackson, Garza, Baker, Feldman, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Arodys Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves in the Paul Maholm deal last July. Vizcaino, however, also is coming back from Tommy John surgery.
The addition of Jackson will not cost the Cubs a Draft pick. He became available after the Nationals declined to make him a qualifying offer.
Having played for the White Sox in 2010-11, Jackson knows Chicago, and didn't have to convince his fiancee that it was a good place to call home in the summer. He's also enthused about the Cubs, who are coming off a 101-loss season.
"It's an organization that has an upside to it," Jackson said. "It's definitely a team that can go out and win a lot of ballgames, regardless of what anyone says, and that was definitely a factor in our decision."
Now, it's back to wedding details.
"I'm not really nervous about either," he said about the pending nuptials and starting for the Cubs. "I'm trying to calm my nerves. With wedding planning, two people can't be nervous."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.