General Manager Mike Rizzo indicated that acquiring Jackson makes the Nationals no more likely to trade one of their starting pitchers. Of course, saying otherwise would hurt the Nationals’ leverage if they did discuss a trade with another team. But Rizzo called acquiring Jackson and making a trade “mutually exclusive.”
“We’re certainly always open to making a deal if it makes sense for us,” Rizzo said. “We did not acquire Edwin Jackson to trade another starting pitcher. In spring training or before spring training, if a deal comes up we can’t pass up that positively impacts our ballclub, we’d certainly be open-minded to it.”
The Nationals have a clear logjam in a rotation that ranks among the deepest and best in the National League — it now seems to line up as Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Jackson and Chien-Ming Wang or Lannan.
While Jackson gives the Nationals an abundance of starters, the team is in position to acquire depth in its rotation. Pitching his first full season since Tommy John surgery, Strasburg will throw no more than about 160 innings. Last year, Wang returned from a shoulder operation that sidelined him for more than two years. Zimmermann has never pitched more than 200 innings.
In looking across the league, Rizzo found that six of the eight playoff teams included at least two starters who pitched 200 innings. The Nationals now have insurance should they suffer a spring training injury to their rotation. And if another team suffers one and becomes willing to overpay in a trade, the Nationals could step in.
“We had an innings shortage,” Rizzo said. “I like the competition aspect of this. There’s going to be a lot of good pitchers out there in spring training this year. The best 25 guys will go north.”
Rizzo began discussing a deal with Scott Boras, the agent Jackson shares with several high-profile Nationals, about 10 or 12 days ago. Once Rizzo realized Jackson would be open to a one-year deal, the idea of signing him became “much more palatable for us,” Rizzo said.
“The term and the value was too good to pass up,” Rizzo said. “We felt it improved our club immensely. There comes a point where his value was such that we were comfortable making the deal.”
Jackson spurned longer-term offers from teams in the American League to sign with the Nationals. The one-year deal gives him the chance to pitch in the less challenging National League before hitting the free agent market again next winter, he hopes, with a rebuilt value.