The Chicago Cubs were one of the worst pitching teams in baseball this past year, but the club is working to take steps in the right direction this offseason by adding a new arm to the staff.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, sources said that free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson is nearing a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs.
The 29-year-old Jackson is a reliable starter and went 10-11 with 168 strikeouts and a 4.03 ERA in 189 2/3 innings with the Washington Nationals last season. He allowed 23 home runs, but pitched one complete game and had one start in the postseason, striking out six while lasting six innings, giving up five runs and five hits.
Jackson's best pitch is his fastball, which frequently can hit the mid-to-upper 90s on the radar gun. He also can throw a two-seam fastball, curve ball, changeup and a hard slider.
Since 2008 Jackson has played with seven different teams and is finally getting the longer term deal he was looking for the past couple seasons. He signed a one-year deal with the Nationals in the offseason last year after playing the previous season with the with the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
In 2011, he combined to go 12-9 with 148 and a 3.79 ERA in 199 innings. He has only thrown for 200-plus innings twice in his nine year career, but has been a durable pitcher, making at least 31 starts in every season since 2007, including in 2010 when he pitched a no-hitter with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Jackson became expendable for the Nationals after the team signed free agent pitcher Dan Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal. He was part of one of the best pitching staffs in the majors last season and helped the Nationals to an MLB-best 98-64 record. The team won its first NL East title and made it to the National League division series before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jackson's best career stretch came in 2009 with the Detroit Tigers when he was named to the All-Star team. He started 33 games for the team and went 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA, with 161 strikeouts and 70 walks in 200 innings.
In nine seasons Jackson has been almost the exact example of solid, going 70-71 with a 4.40 ERA and 969 strikeouts in 1,268 innings pitched. He's thrown three career shutouts and pitched five complete games over that span. He was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and spent three years with the organization before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, where he spent the bulk of his early career.
In his first full season as a starter, Jackson went 5-15 with 128 strikeouts and an ERA of 5.76 in 31 starts. He improved greatly the next season, going 14-11 with a 4.42 ERA and 101 strikeouts while improving his innings pitched to 183 from 161.
Jackson was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the 2010 season and pitched a no-hitter for the team in June against his former club, the Rays. He threw 150 pitches and won the game 1-0 in Tampa for only the second no-hitter in Diamondbacks' history. He won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011 and made four postseason starts, posting a 5.60 ERA over 17⅔ innings.
The Cubs struggled on both offense and with pitching last season, ranking third to last in total ERA and second to last in wins. Chicago pitchers combined for 101 losses and had a 4.51 ERA as a staff. Team executive and president Theo Epstein is taking the slow approach to rebuilding the Cubs, working to piece together young stars and solid veterans.
The Cubs had previously tried to sign Anibal Sanchez to a contract, but he opted to join the Detroit Tigers with a five-year, $80-million contract instead. The team is also looking at free agent pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who went 7-7 with a 4.16 ERA for the Blue Jays last season.
Chicago has made some other small moves this offseason, including signing pitchers Scott Baker and Scott Feldman as well as Korean reliever Lim Chang-yong and reliever Sandy Rosario. The Cubs also signed third baseman Ian Stewart to a one-year contract after playing 55 games with the team last season.
Last season the team finished fourth in the National League Central with a 61-101 record and only scored 613 runs. The Cubs finished 36 games out of first place behind the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs have missed the postseason in four straight years and have declined in wins over the past four seasons after winning 83 games in 2009.
Chicago last made the postseason in 2008 as winners of the NL Central, but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. The team is still looking for its first World Series appearance since 1945 and has not won a championship since 1908.