With the news yesterday that the Washington Nationals had inked Edwin Jackson to a one-year contract rumored to be worth $10 million, the Orioles are once again on the outside looking in on a free agent. Many Oriole fans are incredibly disappointed in that Jackson decided to go to Washington. In looking at message boards since the news broke, many people are saying that this is yet another sign that “quality free agents” don’t want to come to Baltimore due to the Orioles being thought of as cancer to one’s career. That may well be the perception in some cases; however as is always the case, perhaps there’s just a little more than meets the eye.
Of course the reason that many people feel jilted is because in this case the free agent went to Washington. The argument is that this is a sign that the Nationals are now the “flagship franchise” of the region. My point would be that the Orioles have much longer-standing roots in this region. As I’ve said in the past, I fail to believe that Oriole fans are simply going to stop rooting for the team with whom they grew up and go to another team. Having said that, the Nationals seem to buy into the whole argument that they compete with the Orioles. At the very least their fans do; most Oriole fans with whom I speak are indifferent to the Nats. Ironically, that ticks Nationals’ fans off more than anything else. They don’t want to be ignored.
Nevertheless as soon as I heard the terms of the deal, I thought it was a bad one. It was one thing when the O’s signed Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee to one-year contracts last season. Those were veterans who were just looking to stay in the league. At 28, one would think that Jackson is in the prime of his career. Yet this is his seventh team, and this time next season he might potentially be signing with his eighth. $10 million is a lot to give to a guy that’s only willing to commit to your team for one year. Either that, or Jackson isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be.
I don’t think that’s the case; that Jackson’s not all he’s cracked up to be, that is. I do think he’s a solid pitcher, and perhaps even better than his 4.46 ERA indicates. However again, the guy is indirectly showing no commitment to your team by signing a one-year deal. So in a way I applaud Dan Duquette for not getting dragged into a bidding war for the luxury of renting Jackson’s services. If Jackson took a one-year contract (when there were reports of multiple three-year deals being on the table), that means he’s thinking that he can get a better long-term deal next year on the free agent market. Short-term deals aren’t exactly the mark of Scott Boras clients if you think about it.
Having Edwin Jackson on staff would have been a steal for the Birds, however my argument would be that the Nats might have outthought themselves just a bit on this one. Many people are still complaining that the Orioles aren’t being more active in the free agent/trade markets, yet I would also point out that this team won (and won big) in the final month of the season. The 2012 season will be contingent in large part on the health and consistency of the Orioles’ starting pitcher, and in the health of Brian Roberts. Some people would argue that there are too many IF’s in the equation for the O’s to have a respectable season. That may well be the case, however look at it from the other perspective; IF those things happen, this team will be respectable.
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