The Chicago Cubs made several improvements to their rotation in this offseason and there could be plenty of changes in terms of who will take the ball every fifth day for the team during the next season.
Recently signed pitchers Jon Lester and Jason Hammel are all but assured to have two of the top three spots and Jake Arrieta – who enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 as the team’s ace – is also expected to be slotted between them. Rookie Kyle Hendricks also had a solid year and while he doesn’t overpower hitters, he proved to be successful and he’s expected to be in the mix for the fourth or fifth spot.
That leaves plenty of arms battling for one spot – Tsuyoshi Wada, Travis Wood, Eric Jokisch and Edwin Jackson all appear to be in mix to round out the rotation. And while all of them have pros and cons, no one has a more puzzling situation this offseason than Jackson.
The right-hander signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs during the 2013 offseason and so far his signing has been the worst of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era. Jackson was unable to do much in his first year as a Cub and his numbers were quite poor as he finished the year with a 4.98 ERA and an 8-18 record in 175.1 IP (31 starts). His peripherals were slightly better as his FIP was 3.79 so he was expected to bounce back for 2014.
His 2014 season got off to a slow start but manager Rick Renteria opted to give him every chance to turn things around. However, his season was getting worse and worse as the calendar advanced and his final numbers weren’t encouraging at all; 6-15 record in only 140.2 IP (27 starts) to go along with a 6.33 ERA and a 4.45 FIP. Needless to say, Jackson has been nothing short of atrocious and will face plenty of questions as he prepares to have his third year in a Cubs uniform.
Wada looked good in his short stint last season, Wood is expected to bounce back after a 2013 campaign where he was an All-Star and Jokisch appears to be ready to pitch at the MLB level. Jackson doesn’t have a lot going for him and it seems as he will be destined for fulfill a bullpen role if he’s not traded before the start of the season or during Spring Training. He’s still owed $22 million for the next two years and while he could be effective coming out of the pen, his salary would be a lot of money paid to a reliever that’s not likely to be used in high leverage situations.
Things will be decided once catchers and pitchers report to start Spring Training but one thing is certain: Jackson hasn’t been very successful so far with the Cubs and unless he shows a drastic change of form, he might have pitched his last game in a Cubs’ uniform last season.