Could Tigers trade Edwin Jackson? Tough decision

The tight payroll the Tigers have to manage is the biggest challenge in their offseason dealings. That much was clear even before the report Tuesday night on Edwin Jackson. How they deal with it, and the difficult decisions it could prompt, will be a huge factor in how the Tigers look in 2010 and beyond, both with free agents and even with players under team control.

So yes, it could even force the Tigers to make a decision on Jackson, whose maturation as a pitcher this past season made him an All-Star before his second-half struggles left the Tigers trying to figure out what to make of the gifted young right-hander.

A report from FOXSports.com suggests the Tigers are at least listening to interest in Jackson, their No. 2 starter this past season and a 13-game winner. While there are no indications any deal is close, it’s at least a reflection of the choices the Tigers have to consider as the offseason unfolds, and what they might have to consider on Jackson regardless of finances.

Like staff ace and 19-game winner Justin Verlander, Jackson is eligible for arbitration and could qualify for free agency in two seasons. The Tigers are expected to talk with Verlander and his agent about a long-term contract this winter. Dombrowski hasn’t commented on that matter, but he said last month that they hope to keep Verlander in a Tigers uniform for a long time.

They’re both young, both coming off impressive seasons, and both in a position to get a hefty raise in arbitration. Several other Tigers are up for arbitration, too, including catcher Gerald Laird, utilityman Ramon Santiago and relievers Zach Miner, Bobby Seay and Joel Zumaya.

Other Tigers under long-term deals will see their salaries rise next year. Magglio Ordonez’s $18 million option was the most publicized situation. Miguel Cabrera’s salary leaps from $15 million to $20 million. Carlos Guillen’s salary jumps from $10 million to $13 million. Nate Robertson goes from $7 million to $10 million. Curtis Granderson gets a $2 million raise to $5.5 million.

Dontrelle Willis’ salary, too, will rise, from $10 million to $12 million.

Those salaries add up to $75 million, with nearly $23 million more going to third baseman Brandon Inge and pitchers Jeremy Bonderman, Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner. The Tigers have a slew of contracts expiring at season’s end to provide relief, but that doesn’t help them deal with payroll this year while Michigan’s economy suggests more tough times ahead.

“We’re all aware that the economy is not the same all over the country,” Dombrowski told FOXSports.com. “We’ve been hit hard in our area.”

Add in at least four free agents the Tigers must replace or re-sign — Fernando Rodney, Brandon Lyon, Placido Polanco and Adam Everett — and the Tigers have a challenge.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Tigers have to make a selloff. Owner Mike Ilitch’s desire to win in baseball is a great financial equalizer, and their willingness to even consider Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman suggests some ability to spend. But with the long-term contracts likely not going anywhere, simply keeping payroll steady could be a tough squeeze mathematically.

With Jackson, too, there’s the question of what to make of his 2009 season. Though he ranked seventh among AL starters with a 3.62 ERA and 214 innings, everyone who followed his season knows his first- and second-half difference. He entered the All-Star break with a 7-4 record and a 2.52 ERA, allowing just 94 hits over 121 2/3 innings with 97 strikeouts and averaging better than 6 2/3 innings per start.

Statistically, he went 6-5 after that, but gave up a 5.07 ERA. 106 hits and 17 home runs in 92 1/3 innings. Stuffwise, he lost movement in his slider and went predominantly to his fastball in some starts down the stretch.  Tweaks in his side sessions between starts made a little difference, but didn’t turn things around.

It was his second straight year with a second-half dropoff after a strong turnaround in 2007, and it left some with a sense of befuddlement and disappointment. The Tigers have to decide what it means in the bigger picture. Even with the dropoff, his ability to eat innings was critical to Leyland’s management of the bullpen.

What can the Tigers get out of Jackson next year? What can the Tigers get for him? Difficult questions.

7 Comments

That’s why Mr. I pays DD the big bucks!

I hope we can hold onto Jackson, I think he is a keeper. I cannot even fathom the dollar amounts these guys make. It is something else that for individual sports like golf and tennis, you make money based on your current performance, but in team sports you make money based on your past performance.

Willis the luckiest man alive being paid 12 million dollars for doing absolutely nothing!!! I feel bad for him, but I feel worse for us. Probably the worst contract in history. That is exactly why their should be a salary cap, so contracts like that wouldn’t be handeded out. These poor baseball players would have to live on paultry amounts like 4 or 5 million a year instead of 15 or 20 million. It is completely ridiculous. That contract alone should get him fired. And I don’t mean that he got Willis in the trade, I am talking about the extention before he even through a pitch.

After a season worst than jackson 2009 , DD gave Robertson a big pay. Before Willis thew a single pitch he gave him the keys of the house. And now Jackson one of the era league leaders, who almost brooke his arm for the team with no run support gets nothing. With Porcello´s run support and a decent bullpen he would be now Cy Young sure winner. 20 quality starts until august.
And the fans doesnt care about him being let go.
Is seems Sheffield was right : Monroe, Thames, himself and now Jackson. Granderson will be the only Afro-American in a Detroit team. Good way to take back fans to the park. I guess Wilis goes with Jackson

Amen, to what would they get and/or what do they want. I just can’t believe this, all so we can watch Bondo and Nate giving u s nothing but a feeling of hopelessness. You know you have to have good starting pitching.

Aroldis Chapman? He hasn’t even thrown one pitch in the major leagues. And he’s asking for huge amounts of money.

The African-American comments are ridiculous. Willie Horton is always around the ballpark and has a statue. Sheffield, Thames and Monroe all had terrible seasons before being let go. If the organization was so against African Americans, why would they give Willis the huge contract that people are complaining about?
.
Jackson looked terrible the second half of last season. He looked terrible for much of his early career. The Tigers need consistency and are not likely interested in paying a guy $10mil/yr without knowing he will be consistent. If Verlander signs a long-term huge deal, and Porcello signs a big deal in the next couple of years, and Turner (their #1 pick who is on a major league deal) does the same, they cannot be stuck with Jackson’s contract if he is so-so. DD could be trying to leverage Jackson’s likely high trade value to get some younger players who will cost less in the short-term but pay dividends in the long-term. This is what GMs do…

They would be nuts to let Jackson go. Winning baseball teams generate the most revenue and starting pitching is the biggest factor in winning games. They shouldn’t sign him for $10 mill (yet) but they don’t need to, get him cheaper (6 mill) or just wait another year.

I think Jackson was over-worked, and should’ve been skipped in the rotation 3/4ths of the way through, with some extra rest he would’ve found his second wind like Porcello.

The contract for Nate and Dontrelle were bad at the time and have become terrible. They both should’ve been offered contracts 50-70% of what the got.

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