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Can Edwin Jackson improve under Joe Maddon?

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With the Chicago Cubs taking a huge step forward by landing top free agent pitcher Jon Lester, the rest of the pitching staff is still falling into place. One pitcher in particular, who has an uncertain future in Chicago, is Edwin Jackson.

Jackson pitched for Joe Maddon while he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006-2008, and had some of his better performances during that stretch. His best season was without a doubt in 2008, when he went 14-11 with a 4.42 ERA. In his three years with the team, he compiled a 19-26 record and posted a 5.08 ERA over the span of 380 innings pitched. While those numbers are obviously far from spectacular, when comparing them to how he’s performed on the North side of Chicago, there’s a noticeable difference.

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Now that Maddon has taken over the reigns as the leader of the Cubs, it’s only natural to believe that, provided that the right-hander remains with the team, he’ll show some type of improvement. The level of comfort that a player has will often contribute to his effectiveness on the field, and in Jackson’s case, the way that fans have responded to his poor pitching has likely caused some serious discomfort. Maddon’s ability to get the best out of his players should definitely help with that.

Because the Cubs have addressed starting pitching needs so aggressively thus far in the offseason, it is becoming clear that Jackson’s days as a starter are over. However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t still contribute. Moves to improve the bullpen have yet to be made, so using him as a long reliever is a definite possibility.

The Cubs signed Jackson to four-year deal worth $52 million in 2013, so using him as a reliever isn’t exactly ideal. But with two years and $22 million remaining on his contract, the Cubs must decide if they want to keep Jackson and hope to find worth in their investment, or dump him and count their losses. At this point, the latter seems unlikely, but only time will tell.

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