There has been much speculation about what the Rays will do with Edwin Jackson. Let’s assume for the moment that the Rays do not trade Andy Sonnanstine and both Sonny and David Price are in the rotation at the end of Spring Training. The Rays would then have two options. Trade Jackson or more him to the bullpen.

If Jackson is moved to the bullpen, one factor that has been ignored so far is cost. Jackson is arbitration-eligible for the first time. Taking a look at starting pitchers that were arbitration-eligible for the first time last season, Jackson will make $2.5-3 million in 2009 if he goes to arbitration or signs a one-year contract. Jackson is coming off a season in which he was 14-11 with a 101 ERA+. Last year, Dave Bush was coming off a season in which he went 12-10 with a 88 ERA+. Bush signed a one-year deal for $2.55 million. Joe Blanton, signed a one-year deal for $3.7 million after going 14-10 with a 106 ERA+. However, Blanton had a stronger resume prior to arbitration-eligibility than Jackson. Daniel Cabrera, signed a one-year deal for $2.875 million after going 9-18 with an 83 ERA+.

On the contrary, relief pitchers in their first year of arbitration-eligibility signed one-year deals for $0.8-1.2 million in most cases. Aaron Heilman, who was coming off a strong 2007 season (140 ERA+, 1.070 WHIP), and pitches in a role comparable to what Jackson would be for the Rays, signed a one-year deal for $1.2 million.

Therefore, if Jackson is moved to the bullpen, the Rays will pay have to pay him 2-3 times the salary of a comparable fourth-year relief pitcher, without even knowing if Jackson will be effective out of the bullpen.

So the question that needs to be asked is: Are the Rays willing to pay $2.5-3 million for Jackson to be a middle reliever, with the hopes that he could someday become an effective closer, or would they prefer a player in that slot that makes $0.5-1 million with little or no upside, but may be more effective than Jackson in 2009?


  • Posts over the next few days will be limited. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels.
  • An interesting take on how the Rays’ 10 years of sucktitude, followed by sudden success mirrored a similar run by the Democratic Party. [The League of Nations]
  • Here is a roundup of some of the top talent available in the Rule 5 draft, a list that includes two Rays. [MLB Trade Rumors]
  • David Chalk just keeps churning out the “Your Sportsmen Ain’t S#!t” posts. [Bugs and Cranks]
  • The Examiner takes a look at catching prospect Matt Spring. [The Examiner]



  1. Robert Rittner says:

    As always, a terrific job on analyzing issues related to roster management.

    I always have a problem with questions that ask whether a player should be traded or not, because my answer is almost always that I have to see the return before commenting.

    In the case of Jackson, I do consider him a prime candidate for a trade, partially for the financial reason you lay out, partially because I think he is at the peak of his value now. In fact, should he be moved to the bullpen, I imagine he will lose value on the trade market so that the cost is not just his salary, but what he can be exchanged for.

    But, I do not want to jettison him for a minimal return. I assume that is your prerequisite, so I will vote to trade him, but with the caveat that it should not be a dump.

  2. The Professor says:

    absolutely correct. maybe better wording would be "shop him"?

    and the future value is partly why i ask about his potential to be a closer.

    If Jackson's value is X right now. his future value in the bullpen is only greater than X if he matures into a closer (in terms of value on the trade market). if he is moved to the bullpen, his value falls from X quickly the longer he is not a starter (see Aaron Heilman), and stays low if he is never a closer.

    from the point of view of the Rays, his value can only go higher than it is right now if he a) stays a starter or b) becomes a closer. otherwise it goes down.

  3. Robert Rittner says:

    Yes, I like "shop him" better, or better still, "field offers".

    If he develops into a closer or seems primed to do so, it would raise his value. I am not optimistic he can or would be.

    Also, while I am not fully in the camp of those who think his 2008 win total was entirely a fluke, I do think his peripherals are red flags that he has not really turned a corner. Perhaps he has developed more poise on the mound and it is translating into fewer blowup innings, but the K rate and BB rate remain inadequate even for a #5 starter.

    For that reason, I do hope the Rays can cash in on his superficially good year. But sans a decent return, it remains difficult to cast away a still very young pitcher with his arm, intelligence and work ethic. The dilemma is how best to use him if Price is ready and you believe (as I do) that Sonnanstine is the better pitcher right now.

    One possibility is in long relief and as a spot starter which would give him plenty of work (exposure, in the good sense) and keep him ready to step in should there be an injury. I am thinking Ramiro Mendoza in his prime.

  4. krewezer says:

    I think that Jackson has the stuff to be a closer, where he can get by with just two plus pitches. He does need to develop the closer attitude. As a starter, he usually did well the first time through the lineup, and whenever things went wrong, it happened later.

    My problem with trading him is that he has such a huge upside, but then I was against the Delmon Young trade early on for the same reason. That's why I'm not the GM.

  5. The Professor says:

    i agree to an extent. I have said on here a few times...i think Jackson will one of these years put it all together and get on a roll for an entire season, win 20 games and compete for a Cy Young.

    The problem with that is his team will have to endure a lot of headaches waiting for that to happen. and his team will have to remain patient waiting for 1 or maybe 2 great years.

    in the case of the Rays, they are a contender. And while a team can hide a maturing Jackson in the 5-spot, the Rays don't have to. there are other pitchers that will be better in 2009.

  6. Tank says:

    Hey i wanted to know if anyone can help me out here. I went to a bunch of games this year and saw some people wearing a light blue Rays new era fitted hat. Just think of the hat the players wear but make it light blue with a navy blue TB. I was wondering if anyone had seen that in the local malls over in the tampa bay area. I live in Orlando and it would be worth the drive over there for that hat. Thanks in advance.


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