Blog Entry

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

Posted on: February 2, 2012 2:37 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 10:57 am
The Nationals were already going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch this year.

Now it's time to wonder if they could actually win.

They think so, and it's why they committed money to sign Edwin Jackson to a one-year, $11 million contract, as colleague Jon Heyman first reported Thursday afternoon.

Jackson joins a Nationals rotation that already featured young stars Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and already added Gio Gonzalez this winter. The Nationals also have John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler, although they could now look to trade one of them this spring.

It's not Halladay-Lee-Hamels, but it is huge progress for a team that as recently as 2009 had the fourth highest rotation ERA in baseball.

But is it good enough, especially in a division that could be the most competitive in baseball?

The Phillies are still the National League's elite team, even though they haven't been to the World Series the last two years. The Braves are still very strong, even though they collapsed last September.

And the Marlins are still the team that dominated the first part of this offseason, adding Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

Still, Nationals people are quietly -- and sometimes not so quietly -- optimistic, to the point of believing that they could make a charge for the playoffs this year.

"If the two middle infielders (Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa) get better, and if the catcher (Wilson Ramos) gets better, we could have a heck of a team," one Nats person said to me this week.

And if Bryce Harper is ready?

Obviously, the Nationals think Harper could be a difference-maker, if he's ready for the big leagues at age 19. Even if he isn't completely ready, one Nationals person said, "He can help you win even while he's still learning."

If Harper does make it to the opening day roster, the Nationals would move Jayson Werth to center field, a position he played some in Philadelphia and also for 19 games last year in Washington. The long-term plan, then, would be to add a true center fielder next winter, move Werth to left field and move Mike Morse to first base (where Adam LaRoche will play this year).

The Nationals didn't get everything they wanted this winter. Their top pitching target was Buehrle, who chose the Marlins instead. They were in on the Prince Fielder bidding, although it appears now that they were behind the Tigers, Dodgers and perhaps another team.

But they beat out a crowded field to get Gonzalez from the A's, and now they have Jackson, a hard-throwing 28-year-old who has made an All-Star team and pitched in a World Series.

When Werth signed with the Nationals 14 months ago, there was a thought he was going from the best team in the league to a team with little chance to win. Now, just a year later, the Phillies may still be the best team, but the Nationals could well have a chance to win, too.

They certainly believe they could.

Another way to think of the Jackson signing: The Red Sox arguably needed a starting pitcher more than the Nationals did, but the Nationals were apparently willing to commit more money to get one. The Boston Globe reported that the Sox offered Jackson just $5-6 million on a one-year deal; his deal with the Nationals is for twice that.

The Red Sox rotation is very strong at the top, with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, but very questionable at the end, with converted reliever Daniel Bard, swing man Alfredo Aceves and the questionable Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook as the other options.

Boston badly wanted to sign another starter, but Jackson is now out of the picture, and it appears that Roy Oswalt will hold out for a chance to go to one of his two favored teams, the Cardinals or the Rangers.


Since: Jun 3, 2011
Posted on: February 4, 2012 4:14 pm

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

The Nationals have to be in the conversation now.  The whole NL East is a lot tougher with the additions/comebacks of Josh Johnson, Santana, Strasburg, Buerhle, Gonzalez, Jackson, etc.  That's a lot of pitching that the Phils and Braves did not have to face last year.  Based on that alone, you have to bump up the Marlins and Nats by +4 in wins and take the Braves and Phils down 4.  That alone means the Braves are an 85 win team and the Nats are an 86 win team in 2012.  Next add in the bats.  Morse emerged last year, and with the Nats other adds, that could add a couple more wins, esp. with no Howard and an aging lineup for the Phils that actually got older in the off-season.  I still think the Phils win the division, but I imagine them as a 95-win team and the Nats getting to 89-90.  So the Nats could easily challenge for a wildcard spot, particularly with an expanded playoffs.

Since: Oct 27, 2009
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:17 pm

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

@us66mo - i hear you but when i gave up on even attempting to find any logic in baseball salaries as soon as the Angels handed Gary Matthews that long term deal after 1 decent season at the same time the broke a** Royals handed Gil Meche 5yr/$55 back in 06.

As much as I despise Boras he knows that all he has to do is to wait out these owners and one of them will cave.....every time.....and it's no longer just the Yankees or Red Sox shelling out this money anymore but a plethora of teams.

Since: Jan 16, 2012
Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:03 pm

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

Jackson is getting 11 million this year after having been inconsistent in his career. I'd like to know what a solid pay day is. Wow.

Since: Oct 27, 2009
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:06 pm

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

The NL East is going to be a lot of fun to watch this year (coming from an AL guy). E.Jackson is a nice pick up since it's only 1 year. I like the Nats in their popular sleeper role this year but once you start adding up the "if's" to make that success a reality I still think they are at leats a year away. However, they can win IF:

IF Werth bounces back and can play a quality CF
IF Harper can produce in the majors as a 19 year old
IF Wang, Lannan and Jackson can make up the back end of the rotation and can fll in those extra innings when they start sporadically sitting Strasburg & Jordan in the 2nd half.
IF Morse can build off what he did last year (which was out of the blue for a guy who showed no power in the minors and finally broke out at age 29)
IF Desmond can become an offensive threat and get on base at the top of the order(his numbers were down across the board last year from his first full year; AVG., OBP, SLG, K rate)
IF Espinosa can stop K'ing so much so that he can be more than a .240 hitter
IF Zimmerman can stay healthy for a whole year
IF Ramos develops into a solid every day catcher (he did very well last year but his minor league career leads to doubt whether it sustainable or not)
IF LaRoche bounces back (which he should as he has been Mr. consistent throughout his career but shoulder issues can change he landscape dramatically)
IF Morse, Werth & Harper can find a way to creata a good defensive outfield

That's a lot of IF's. They are definitely an improving team and on their way up, but I think 2013 is a more realistic time frame before they can really start thinking about the playoffs.

Since: Feb 20, 2007
Posted on: February 3, 2012 11:29 am

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

Signing a .500 pitcher with a plus 4.4 era is really pushing the title run hey Knobler? - The Nats don't have enough offense and their best pitchers are young and SS is coming off of surgery.  If they had signed Fielder and maybe. But Werth is fighting reality, the reality that he isn't very good. Zimmerman can't ay healthy at 3rd  and their middle infielders don't scare anyone.  The rotation does look strong, so hopfully they can get away with a bunch of 2-1 / 3-2 victories especially in their park.  But come september when young arms are tired and the Phillies are healthy it could be a different story.  The Marlins will be strong and have more offense than the Nats so I'm not even sure they will finish 3rd in the east. 

Since: Feb 12, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:49 am

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

How are the Phillies any better than the Nats at this point? Strausberg and Zimmerman are going to have their innings limted which will be an issue at the end of the year. The Phils top three starters are very good but on paper so are the Nats at least for 3/4 of the season. Hitting wise the Phillies lineup does not match up against the Nats especially with Howard out, until the All star break. 

Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 9:54 am

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now


???  Best Bench?  on paper maybe, but in real life we shall see.  Worley?  I like the kid a lot, but I have to couch my enthusiasm for him with my memories of other 1 year recent memory, JA Happ...but I am older than that, and remember Pat Combs, Bruce Ruffin, Starvin Marvin Freeman, Marty Bystrom, Charles Hudson, Brandon Duckworth.  So lets try and not get to excited about a rookie pitcher on the winningest team in baseball.  There was no book on him last year.  The team behind him was very good.  He was too, but I want to see him do it 1 or 2 more seasons before I am a believer. 

Honestly, looking at the moves made in the NL East, and looking at the pathetic offense my Phillies are in no way a lock.  Sorry, but Utley has been slipping for a few years now, and still has a gimpy knee, Rollins' #'s have been dropping for 4 years now, Polanco is done, Howard is coming off a somewhat down year (though I don't know if it was him, because all of baseball's offense was down) and now is coming off a major injury, and all Amaro has done to upgrade is sign guys like Wigginton and Nix, who are swing and miss guys.  Getting Juan Pierre was nice...I would cut Nix now.  We need contact hitters.  I would rather have Atlanta's or Washington's potential offense than the Phillies right now.  And Atlanta has a rotation that may not be as good as Philadelphia's, but it looks damn close.  Even the Marlins, if Josh Johnson comes back, could give them pressure.  The Phillies, right now, could be anywhere between 1st and 3rd, and if Johnson is what he can be, and the Phillies lose any of their top 3 pitchers for an extended period of time, they could be 4th.  Our offense is a huge problem.  It is what has doomed us in the postseason for 3 years (awful against an average Yankees pitching rotation, terrible against a bad Reds rotation, a very good Giants rotation, and an average Cardinals rotation in the last 3 postseasons.  only 1 series win in the last 4 series).  The offense is falling in Philadelphia, and it is Ruben Amaro's fault for not recognizing that the problem is there, not in the bullpen, and for not fixing it. 

Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 9:11 am

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

and thank you phila-palmbeach for our dose of 3 am crazy OMG ALL CAPS BOLD rants. Also, did you just say Joe Blanton and good in the same sentence? The only thing he's good for is giving up home runs.

Actually, with regard to Blanton, he is not a bad pitcher.  Last year, he was injured the entire season and stunk as a result, therefore, his ability to come back is a wild card.  The year before he had a terrible start for the first month, but from May thru the end of September, his ERA was top 15 in the league.  In 2009, again, after a terrible start (something like a 7.00 ERA in 6 or 7 starts) he pitched well enough to drop his ERA to 4.05 at the end of the year.  Quietly, he was very good. He doesn't get much credit because of the guys in front of him.  He is not an ace, but he has been a decent #3 pitcher, and he is a very good #4 pitcher, and on this team he will be a very good #5.  Is he overpaid?  Damn straight he is.  But you can't have 5 aces in your rotation unless you want to pay $250 million a year on just your starting pitching.  So as a #4 or #5, I am okay with him.  Personally, I would have liked to have see them put him in the bullpen (he looked good there when he came back at the end of the year), even try him out as the set up guy or closer (IMO, you never pay the kind of money you are paying Papelbon, unless it is Mariano Rivera), and resign Oswalt for 1 year at a reduced rate (which I think he would have taken).  But they didn't, so I can live with Blanton for another year in the rotation.

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 8:40 am

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

and thank you phila-palmbeach for our dose of 3 am crazy OMG ALL CAPS BOLD rants. Also, did you just say Joe Blanton and good in the same sentence? The only thing he's good for is giving up home runs.

Since: Oct 8, 2011
Posted on: February 3, 2012 7:57 am

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

Phila palm beach whatever your name is.  I have a chump cousin from Woodbury NJ who thinks just like you.  First and for most you couldnt even beat St.Louis. Which will have Wainwright back.  So there starting pitching is instantley better and the world champs still have a better lineup then your free swingin chum.   Yes you have the best rotation but you have had the best rotation for the last 3 years.  dont count your chickens before they hatch HOMIE

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or