As Edwin Jackson remains unsigned, it has been assumed that he is going to get stuck with a short-term deal this off-season. Of course, Jackson is a Scott Boras client, and sometimes it's best not to assume when he is involved. The offers might be out there, too: only the Orioles have admitted to being interested in going four years on Jackson, but when push comes to shove maybe someone else would pay up, too.
That hasn't happened yet, though, and the teams who haven't budged on the deal's length are in a position to not go dollar-for-dollar and year-for-year with the Orioles, by virtue of, well, not being the Orioles. It's been reported by Jim Bowden that Jackson is in the sights of both the Red Sox and Cardinals, but both teams are interested in him for lower money and just the one year. Before you think that the Sox and Cards are both nuts for seemingly low-balling Jackson by this amount, let it be known the rumors also exist that Jackson -- and by extension, Boras -- would be fine with a one-year deal in the right situation.
There is security in a four-year deal, as Jackson would be paid regardless of whether he ever pitched well again (or at all). But pitching for the Cardinals or Red Sox for a year represents Jackson's chance to pitch in an environment that would likely host competitive baseball -- a successful full season in conditions Jackson hasn't tasted outside of his short stay in St. Louis might make for a more lucrative 2012-2013 off-season.
The counterpoint to this is basically that if Jackson couldn't land a multi-year deal (the Orioles notwithstanding) this winter, why would he be able to next season, when the pitching market is that much stronger? There are two thoughts with this line of thinking that can be questioned. First, if there are tons of pitchers available on the free agent market, that means there are a whole lot of vacancies that need to be filled as well. It might not be a 1:1 ratio, but unless Jackson completely falters, he'll have more places he could pitch in 2013 than in 2012. The second notion is that there are tons of pitchers available in the first place: almost half of next year's assumed available crop has an option on 2013, and with a few exceptions, they are club-friendly ones:
|Brett Myers||$10M club||$3M buyout|
|James Shields||$9M club||$1.5M buyout|
|Fausto Carmona||$9M club|
|Tim Hudson||$9M club||$1M buyout|
|Gavin Floyd||$9.5M club|
|Scott Baker||$9.25M club|
|Scott Feldman||$9.25M club||$600K buyout|
|Jake Westbrook||$8.5M mutual||$1M buyout|
|R.A. Dickey||$5M club||$300K buyout|
|Jake Peavy||$22M club||$4M buyout|
|Dan Haren||$15.5M club||$3.5M buyout|
|Ervin Santana||$13M club||$1M buyout|
|Jorge De La Rosa||$11M player||$1M buyout|
|Randy Wolf||$10M club||$1.5M buyout|
James Shields is absolutely staying in Tampa Bay for $9 million in 2013, or he is being dealt to a team who wants someone that good for that little. He also has an option for 2014. Brett Myers' $3 million buyout makes his 2013 cost essentially $7 million, so it depends on what kind of situation the Astros find themselves in (or whoever owns Myers come July). Floyd and Baker are both worthwhile pickups at just over $9 million. R.A. Dickey at just $5 million is probably the smartest financial decision associated with the Mets in years.
The eventual declining of Jake Peavy's $22 million option represents one of the few moments where we know what general manager Kenny Williams is going to do. Dan Haren would easily pull in $15.5 million per year as a free agent, and the Angels have set themselves up to win now while they have a ridiculous rotation -- that's why Ervin Santana probably won't go anywhere for at least one more year, either.
The options that will be declined (or are likely to be declined) are for pitchers who do not represent a real threat to Edwin Jackson's attempt at securing a long-term deal next winter. You can't even joke that Peavy's shoulder is held together with duct tape at this point, because the results probably would have been better. Wolf is a solid back-end rotation option for a competing team, but he'll be heading into his age-36 season and getting ready to live off of one-year deals. The Brewers might need him, too. Jake Westbrook will see his option declined because no one will want him at that price; not exactly the best endorsement for a Jackson alternative.
The free agent picture is a bit rosier, with Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Colby Lewis, Shaun Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, and plenty of others available. But again, if all of those pitchers switch teams, it's going to mean that there are new holes available for Jackson to fill. If the Phillies lose Hamels, they will have the spot (and the money) for a useful pitcher. The Brewers might not be able to afford Greinke and Marcum, but Jackson will likely be cheaper and could fill the other spot. The Marlins have money all of a sudden, and if 2012 doesn't magically solve their problems for them, they could look to spend again.
Rather than spend the next four years in Baltimore, a team more desperate for Jackson than Jackson is desperate for work, he can afford to sign with the Red Sox or Cardinals on a one-year deal, given the newly-opened rotation spots that will be there for him come 2013. There will be competition for those gigs, but they will also be plentiful. Scott Boras knows what he's doing if Jackson shoots down a larger offer for a one-year stay of free agency.