• More From Rizzo On MLB Network Radio: D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was asked if he'd walk MLB Network Radio hosts Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette through the Nationals' thought process in signing 28-year-old free agent right-hander Edwin Jackson to what is reportedly a 1-year/$11M dollar deal when he appeared on their show this afternoon to discuss the Nats' most recent addition. "We look at our rotation, our roster," the general manager said, "and we've got guys in different kinds of situations in their careers and in their development and in their rehabilitation, really, so we thought that we had a little innings drought. We needed to pick up some innings and some quality innings and Edwin was out there at [what] we thought was the right term for us and the right price and we thought it was a bit of a value for what we got on a 3.5-4.0 WAR player."
The 6'3'', 210 lb Jackson, who's pitched for Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Cardinals over the last three years, has finished at +3.6, +3.8 and +3.8 fWAR in the last three seasons. Jordan Zimmermann's +3.4 fWAR was the highest amongst pitchers on the Nationals in 2011 with Livan Hernandez second at +1.9 fWAR. Gio Gonzalez was worth +3.5 fWAR fWIW. Last year, in Chicago with the White Sox and then in St. Louis after he was traded to Toronto and immediately flipped to the Cardinals, the right-hander was (12-9) with a 3.79 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 62 walks (2.79 BB/9) and 148 K's (6.67 K/9) in 32 G, 31 GS and 199.2 IP. In the postseason with St. Louis, Jackson, who pitched in the World Series with Tampa Bay in '08, was (1-1) with the Cardinals 3-1 in his starts though he gave up 19 hits, 11 runs and nine walks in 17.2 IP. More importantly, to the Nats at least, the nine-year MLB veteran has a 162-game average of 195.0 IP per season.
"With Stephen Strasburg, who will be on an innings limit, and Chien-Ming Wang," Rizzo explained, "We really don't know what we're going to get out of him. He hasn't pitched deep into a season in a long time, so we're counting on Gio Gonzalez for 200 [IP], now we've got another 200 [inning] guy we can count on in Edwin Jackson. You've got Stephen Strasburg, you've got Jordan Zimmermann [who is] one year removed from Tommy John surgery, pitched 160.0 innings last year. We can be more patient with him, so we thought that [Jackson] was not only a quality pitcher but also gives us a quantity in innings and kind of gives us protection in the rotation."
As the GM explained yesterday in a conference call with the D.C. press corps, the Nationals got interested in Edwin Jackson when the pitcher began considering accepting one-year offers after failing to find the right multi-year deal. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) wrote on Twitter last night that the right-hander, "... turned down $30M for 3 yrs to sign for 1 year with Nats. sought to play for contender & establish value."
With all the pitchers on the roster now, (seven are expected to compete for five spots in the rotation on Opening Day), the GM was asked if they've already discussed how they'll divide up the innings amongst starters this Spring. "The conversations I've had with Steve McCatty, who's our major league pitching coach, and Spin Williams, who's our pitching coordinator in the minor leagues, along with Davey [Johnson]," Rizzo said, are about, "... how we're going to set up for the beginning of Spring Training. What pitchers do we want to stretch out as, and give the innings, as starters, because those innings are very, very valuable in the beginning of Spring Training."
As for how the Nats' rotation now compares to those of their NL East rivals, the general manager said, "We're a lot younger than a lot of other rotations, experience-level and that type of thing, but we feel that we've got very good quality pitchers, they're young and don't have the experience-level as maybe the Phillies do, but we feel that they have great upside. They've already shown their potential, but they still have potential. We feel that our big three at least, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Zimmermann, we still see them as having some upside.
"They're still getting better, they're not at their peak yet. We feel good about Edwin. Chien-Ming had an electric four or five final starts and we feel his shoulder is getting better and better and better. John Lannan is a terrific major league pitcher, a 3.70 ERA, he's a 180-200 inning guy and Ross Detwiler, who's a power lefty, that again, had a 3.00 ERA last year in the National League, we feel that his future is bright also." Detwiler has a champion in Nats' skipper Davey Johnson too, who moved the '07 1st Round pick back into the rotation and was impressed with what he saw late last season. "And I don't care if it's any time of the year," the 68-year-old manager told reporters, "[It's] big league ballgames. You're pitching against clubs that are trying to establish their year. Every player that goes out there is trying to do well enough to play another year or win a pennant. And the effort that you're seeing [from Detwiler] is outstanding and he's definitely in the picture in the starting rotation."
"We're certainly going to have good competition in Spring Training," Rizzo said yesterday after the Edwin Jackson deal was announced, "And we're going to bring the best twenty-five north with us." And the rotation they're likely to open the 2012 season with, as the Nats' GM said a few weeks back after introducing Gio Gonzalez to D.C., will be, "... a young core of starting pitchers at the major league level that really is in the realm of something that we've never had here before."