Could E-Jax be a Yankee?

Until recently, it seemed likely the White Sox would be buyers.  They are still just 4.5 games back in the middling AL Central.  But Ozzie Guillen’s most recent tantrum, the diminished performance of Alex Rios and Adam Dunn, and a general impression of growing tension within the clubhouse has some, including Ken Rosenthal, speculating that Kenny Williams may dangle some interesting players during the next week.

Unlike Carlos Quentin, a trade including E-Jax could be spun as something other than a white flag, as the White Sox have been using a six-man rotation for much of the season.  If Williams can get a major-league ready hitter in the deal, it might even help both teams involved over the short term.

Although his traditional stats (6-7, 3.97 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) don’t necessarily show it, E-Jax has been Chicago’s best starter in 2011.  He leads the rotation in WAR (2.8), FIP (3.18), xFIP (3.39), SIERA (3.62), K/9 (7.31), and HR/9 (0.62).  He has been mighty unlucky, as his BABIP is currently the highest in baseball (.336).  WAR, FIP, and xFIP all rank him as one of the top thirteen pitchers in the AL, while SIERA puts him at seventeen.

Which isn’t to say Jackson should be treated as an ideal complement to C. C. Sabathia at the top of the rotation.  At 27, E-Jax may still be on the upward swing of his career, but he has been very streaky thusfar.  He is capable of pitching like an Ace over extended stretches, as he did in the summer of 2009 (7-3, 2.46 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) and after joining the White Sox at the tail end of 2010 (4-2, 3.24 ERA, 9.24 K/9).  He can also wreak havoc on teams that depend upon him.  When Detroit was fighting for the playoffs in September of ’09, Jackson gave them a 6.08 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in his last eight starts.  He had similarly disastrous implosions in Arizona and Tampa Bay.

Jackson’s inconsistency makes comprising a trade for him even more anxiety-provoking.  If Jackson recaptures the form he showed last fall, or merely continues to pitch as he has in 2011 while playing in front of a superior defense and with superior run support, he could be well worth a top prospect.  If he fails to be anything more than another innings-eater and is happily shuffled into free agency this winter, such a loss would sting.

I, personally, am encouraged by the slow but sure progression we’ve seen from Jackson over his first five seasons in the big leagues.  There’s no denying that his stuff is impressive and he has proven himself extremely durable (in fact, he has never missed a start due to injury).  He is also a much calmer and more resilient pitcher than he was in his early twenties.  I’d be willing to bet that Jackson has five or six really good seasons in front of him, and probably a couple more All-Star invites.  If he were to blossom in the Big Apple and dominate in the playoff fishbowl, it would mean millions of dollars to him a few months from now.  I would not, however, trade one of the Yankees top three prospects on that possibility.

Matt teaches at The University of Alabama. Roll Tide. He specializes in American Literature and Rhetorical Economics. Fate chose for him the peculiar perdition of rooting for the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Clippers.

13 thoughts on “Could E-Jax be a Yankee?

  1. Regis

    The Yankees need an arm and, depending on the cost, Jackson would be a nice pick-up. AJ is just plain awful – in a down year for offenses, he is still a below average pitcher. Hughes is trying to round into form and it doesn't look like you can rely on him. CC, Garcia and Colon have to pitch stellar to keep the Yankees in it otherwise we're in for another couple of months of .500 baseball and a quick exit from the playoffs.

  2. Rick N

    I agree about Jackson as long as we don't give up any solid minor league players. Jimenez would be a great pickup but not for what they are asking. Can you image Zambrano as a Yankee??

    • chris

      Why wouldnt u trade for jimwnez? Ya the proapects have high ceillings but in the end they are still prospects. Jimenez is under control for what 2 mmore years, so its not just a rrental. He is a feont line starter. From what ive read montero is not the long term catcher for the yanks. And as good as the killer b’s could turn into its far less certain than jimenez being good. Much like Kyle drabek or rick porcello two pitching proapects that were supposedpy the next great ypung prospects and look at wjere they are now. Ivan Nova is still a big league pitcher regardless of him being in triple a right now but he is still a middle rotation Guy, not an ace like jimenez.

  3. BrienJackson

    I have an irrational dislike for Jackson, so I don't really know what to make of his value, or whether he's an upgrade on the current rotation.

    • I don't think your "irrational dislike" is at all uncommon. Commentators, both professional and amateur, seem quick to dismiss him. Very few seem willing to recognize how good he's been in his mid-twenties. Perhaps it's because at his two moments of greatest publicity – late '08 with the Rays and late '09 with the Tigers – he didn't exactly rise to the occasion. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that he was over-hyped as a prospect. However, here's how Jackson ranks among starting pitchers since '08 (minimum 520 IP):

      WAR: #30
      IP: #22
      WHIP: #55
      ERA: #47
      FIP: #48
      xFIP: #50
      SIERA: #49

      Granted, those numbers don't blow you away, but for a 27-year-old who's spent the majority of his time in the AL, that ain't bad at all. Still, like you, I don't really know how much I'd be willing to give up for a two-month rental. If you could extend him cheaply (say 2 yr./$18 Mil.), I'd probably give up Betances or some combo of Nova, Noesi, Romine, etc.

      • The Yanks policy is strictly NOT to negotiate with players before their contract expires.

        • BrienJackson

          I think that only applies to contracts THEY have made. I don't think it would necessarily apply to a hypothetical extension as part of acquiring a player via trade. For example, had they traded for Halladay prior to last season, I imagine they would probably have wanted to get an extension done before finalizing the deal.

  4. Michael

    Again is this guy an upgrade? Over who? Hughes i would suppose but hes not pitching all that much better than any of the guys he would be replacing. Hes not replacing Burnett, no one is not with his contract. So do you trust him more than Colon and Garcia right now? Your going to give up prospects for a half year rental player who may or may not represent an upgrade over your current starters? Dont underestimate the fine work of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. He was the Yankees number one choice over the offseason and deservedly so if you look at his resume. Guys pitch better for him and tend to falter without him.

    • If you believe the advanced metrics (and I do), he's an upgrade over everybody but Sabathia. Don Cooper is a fine pitching coach, but I don't think you can give him total credit for E-Jax, who had brilliant stretches in Detroit and good ones in Arizona and Tampa Bay before coming to Chicago.

  5. David in Cal

    The Yanks could upgrade their starting pitching without giving up any prospects at all by bringing back Nova and moving Burnett to the bull pen.

    • David, Jr.

      I would do just what you say, except with Hughes. The guy has a very straight 90 MPH fastball and not much else. Batting practice. However, for some reason he is one of their "Coach's Son" players, and they keep running him out there to get pounded.

      I would love to see that somebody was seduced by the phony 18 wins last year. If they bit for him, we could keep Banuelos and Betances, who have serious stuff.

  6. Smitty in DC

    I agree. The only thing keeping Burnett from becoming a middle reliever is his contract.

  7. Kurt

    Agree totally with David to bring back Nova. He was pitching well, learning how to get past the 5th inning, and definitely improving as a steady starter. Burnett is an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

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