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Oakland A’s sign Edwin Jackson to minor league contract, again

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The veteran starting pitcher is back on the depth chart.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s signed pitcher Edwin Jackson to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday. The imminent deal was first reported by Julian McWilliams of The Athletic. If Jackson makes the majors then he’ll draw a $2 million salary, reports insider Jon Heyman.

This is the second straight year the A’s have inked Jackson to a minors pact. They brought in the right-hander last June, and he ended up reaching the majors and playing a big role on a team that made the playoffs. He made 17 starts, including seven that registered as quality and five more that were close, and Oakland won 14 of them. He didn’t always go deep, but he kept the team in the game nearly every time out, only thrice allowing more than three runs and never more than five.

Jackson, 2018: 3.33 ERA, 92 ip, 68 Ks, 37 BB, 12 HR, 4.65 FIP

It was a wonderful bounce-back for Jackson, who hadn’t been an effective starter since 2012. Statcast wasn’t a fan of his underlying performance, ranking him in the bottom-fifth of MLB pitchers via xwOBA, but on the bright side his velocity was as strong as ever and he still touched 97 mph a few times.

Of course, one of the highlights of Jackson’s season came when he threw his very first pitch. By taking the mound for the A’s, he tied the all-time record by playing for his 13th MLB team, matching the mark set by former A’s reliever Octavio Dotel. Jackson won’t be breaking that record just yet, now that he’s back for a repeat with Oakland, but at least he’s staying active and thus leaving the door open for it in the future.

As for the present day, the 35-year-old joins a depth chart that has as many question marks as it does names. The current MLB rotation has at least stayed healthy so far, and none of the five has been a complete disaster yet, but of course either of those statements can change quickly. After them, Chris Bassitt is rehabbing from a minor injury, Jesus Luzardo is recovering from a slightly more serious shoulder scare, and Daniel Mengden and Paul Blackburn bear promise but haven’t yet had the chance to fully establish themselves in the bigs.

Despite low expectations, the A’s rotation has held its own so far through 17 games, ranking 15th in MLB in ERA (4.15). Their 5.21 FIP (23rd) suggests some cause for concern, but on the bright side their .316 xwOBA is tied for 11th-best out of 30 teams. They’re not great and no one ever thought they would be, but they’ve been adequate, and with the upside for more if some of their injured arms come back strong (like Jharel Cotton, Sean Manaea, and A.J. Puk).

Rumors had swirled around Jackson and the A’s this winter, but a deal never got done, neither here nor elsewhere. Heyman reports that Oakland did offer him an MLB contract during the offseason, but he turned it down.

Jackson will get warmed up in Arizona before joining the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. By all accounts he’s extremely popular among the other players in the A’s clubhouse, and Slusser offers some quotes on that topic in her full writeup.

Hot take: Good news! I wouldn’t have minded bringing Jackson back last winter, though I’m happy with the three veterans they signed instead. Now we get him back anyway, on another cheap deal, and with non-roster status that makes him a valuable depth piece stashed in the minors. Now the A’s can bide their time evaluating their current group, and then wait until the exact moment they need Jackson to make a corresponding move, whether that’s in a couple weeks or a couple months. And in the meantime, a veteran who is praised for his presence and mentorship will spend some time with the youngsters on the Triple-A staff.

Here’s the updated depth chart for the rotation.

MLB rotation, can’t be sent to minors

  1. Mike Fiers
  2. Marco Estrada
  3. Brett Anderson
  4. Frankie Montas
  5. Aaron Brooks

Waiting in Triple-A

  • Chris Bassitt (40-man roster) (but on DL)
  • Edwin Jackson
  • Daniel Mengden (40-man roster)
  • Paul Blackburn (40-man roster)
  • Tanner Anderson (40-man roster)
  • Jake Buchanan

Injured, but might contribute in 2019

  • Jesus Luzardo (out until at least June)
  • Jharel Cotton (out for beginning of 2019, possible in June)
  • A.J. Puk (out for beginning of 2019, and hasn’t pitched in Triple-A)
  • Sean Manaea (might return in second half of 2019)
  • Daniel Gossett (out for most of 2019)