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Oakland A’s sign Edwin Jackson to minor league contract

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The veteran pitcher could tie an odd record if he reaches Oakland.

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s signed veteran pitcher Edwin Jackson to a minor league contract, first reported by MLB Trade Rumors. The 34-year-old right-hander opted out of the Nationals system last week, and his deal with the A’s has an opt-out of June 20 if he doesn’t reach MLB before then.

Jackson debuted all the way back in 2003 at age 19, and since then he’s virtually redefined the term journeyman. He’s played in the bigs for 12 teams during his career, one shy of the all-time record held by former A’s reliever Octavio Dotel. If Jackson does make it up to Oakland then he will tie Dotel with 13 clubs. In an extra twist, the two were once traded for each other in July 2011; it was the second time that day that Jackson had been dealt. Overall Jackson has been traded six times, including once straight-up for Matt Joyce at the end of 2008.

In terms of actual performance, Jackson hasn’t stood out enough to stick around anywhere for long but he’s been good enough to keep getting chances all over the league. His best season came in 2009 with the Tigers, earning him his only All-Star bid, and in 2010 he threw a no-hitter with the D’Backs (albeit one of the worst ever). More recently he had a strong year as a reliever in 2015 for the Cubs and Braves, but the last time he was effective as a starter was 2012 when he was league-average in his first go-around with the Nats.

Jackson, career SP: 4.68 ERA, 1685⅓ ip, 7.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, 4.29 FIP
Jackson, career RP: 4.46 ERA, 115 ip, 6.3 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9, 4.93 FIP

Most of the relief work came in the last three years, for six total teams. He was exclusively a reliever in 2015, then more of a swingman in ‘16, and mostly a starter in ‘17.

2015: 3.07 ERA, 55⅔ ip, 40 Ks, 21 BB, 4 HR, 3.82 FIP
2016: 5.89 ERA, 84 ip, 61 Ks, 41 BB, 14 HR, 5.36 FIP
2017: 5.21 ERA, 76 ip, 60 Ks, 29 BB, 20 HR, 6.14 FIP

Jackson has spent all of this year as a starter in Triple-A, where he’s managed to post solid numbers in 10 outings:

2018, AAA: 3.40 ERA, 55⅔ ip, 47 Ks, 22 BB, 4 HR, 3.84 FIP

According to Brooks Baseball, Jackson’s fastball can still average 93 mph, and he mixes between a 4-seam, sinker, and cutter. His main breaking ball is a slider, which he throws around a quarter of the time.

The A’s pitching staff has been decimated by injuries all year, and they’re nearly out of MLB-ready depth. There are five starters on the DL (Gossett, Triggs, Anderson, Blackburn, Cotton), plus three more on the shelf in Triple-A (Graveman, Puk, Holmes), and a couple relievers are out as well (Casilla, Buchter). Frankie Montas began the year around 12th on the starting depth chart and is now firmly in the rotation.

The situation has gotten desperate enough that Paul Blackburn will cut his minor league rehab short to make the start for Oakland on Thursday, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. He was supposed to throw 75 pitches for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday in his recovery from a forearm strain (via Slusser), but instead he’ll make that outing in the bigs for his 2018 debut. The other in-house options for the open rotation spot were highlighted by TJS survivor Chris Bassitt and fringe prospect James Naile. With Jackson on board, there is now another viable option, at least for the next couple weeks before any potential opt-out.

Will Jackson make it to Oakland? If he does, will he have anything to contribute? Stay tuned for the answers to those questions!

Hot takes

I’d be pretty bummed about all this if I was Bassitt. He’s already on the 40-man roster and he could be on turn to start Thursday or Friday, rather than rushing Blackburn back from the DL for what could end up being more or less a bullpen game. Now there’s even one more obstacle in the way, with Jackson’s presence.

Leaving that aside, though, I’m happy to add the extra depth piece. It’s actually surprising that it took this long for Jackson to take a turn in the A’s organization, since he’s always available and always at least sorta worth a look and never out of their price range. Who knows if he has anything left in the tank at this point, but the top requirements for Oakland’s rotation right now are a pulse and a functioning UCL so he at least meets those criteria. Don’t expect much, but this is the Island of Misfit Toys so never say never when it comes to trying to rejuvenate a veteran.

As for his full list of teams, he’s played for (in order): Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, D’Backs, White Sox, Cardinals, Nats, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, Orioles, and then the Nats again. In between the White Sox and Cardinals, he was briefly on the Blue Jays for a few hours but didn’t pitch for them.

Welcome, Edwin!

Oakland A's pitching depth
MLB AAA
Starters

Sean Manaea (L)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Trevor Cahill (R)
Frankie Montas (R)

Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)
Yusmerio Petit (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Danny Coulombe (L)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
AAA starters

Chris Bassitt (R)*
Edwin Jackson (R)
James Naile (R)
Eric Jokisch (L)
Ben Bracewell (R)

AAA relievers

Josh Lucas (R)*
Carlos Ramirez (R)*
Bobby Wahl (R)
Jake Sanchez (R)
J.B Wendelken (R)
Raul Alcantara (R)
Jeremy Bleich (L)
Dean Kiekhefer (L)
Jarret Martin (L)

* = on 40-man roster

10-day DL: RHP Daniel Gossett (elbow), RHP Andrew Triggs (arm nerve), LHP Brett Anderson (shoulder), LHP Ryan Buchter (shoulder), RHP Santiago Casilla (shoulder)

60-day DL: RHP Jharel Cotton (TJS), RHP Paul Blackburn (forearm)

AAA injuries: RHP Kendall Graveman (forearm), LHP A.J. Puk (TJS), RHP Grant Holmes(shoulder), RHP Kyle Finnegan

Updates: Casilla is on rehab in High-A Stockton and hitting 91-93 mph (link), and Buchter “could go on a rehab assignment soon” (via Slusser).