Let’s ignore Francis for a minute and concentrate on Jackson. This means one of two things: either the good folks at Fox Sports and MLBTradeRumors.com are trying to play a joke to get my hopes up, or the Twins really are getting serious about addressing the gaping hole in their rotation.
I am an unabashed Jackson advocate. I view him as the best pitcher on the free agent market, aside from C.J. Wilson. He has amazing “stuff” including a fastball that averages nearly 95 mph and a very productive slider. But the amazing thing about Jackson is his perfect combination of youth and experience. At 28 years old, he is one of the few pitchers on the market who could conceivably improve over the next couple seasons. But he already has enough of a track record to make him a safe bet. Jackson has pitched at least 180 innings and won double digit games for each of the last four years. In three of those seasons, he notched at least 148 strikeouts. Furthermore, he has pitched in the postseason for two World Series teams: the 2008 Rays and the 2011 Cardinals.
In short: Jackson is a durable, and he’s a winner.
Sure, he’s a bit erratic; in his 2010 no-hitter, for example, he walked eight and threw 149 pitches. But Jackson would be a nice change of pace from all that “pitch to contact” business we all want to forget. And yes, he has been traded six times, which might lead one to think that teams get fed up with him. But the flip side is that in each of those trades, a team was willing to pay handsomely to acquire him. I think that a nice stable situation is all that Jackson needs to thrive. If the Twins give him a multi-year contract and a few years of stability, he could be a good pitcher for years to come.
He’ll cost upwards of $10 million per year, though the exact amount probably depends on how the market shakes out after Wilson signs. I think he would be worth taking a chance on, up to and including a 5 year, $13 million per year deal.
As for Francis, I’d pass, unless he’s available for an absolute rock-bottom price. His fastball was hardly worthy of the name, at 84.7 mph last year. And his curveball and change are not good enough to mask that lack of velocity. Francis does not strike batters out, and he isn’t exactly durable (last season was the first time he made 30 starts since 2007, thanks to injuries). Rule of thumb: it’s not a good idea to go after a guy whose ERA (4.82) was higher than his K/9 number (4.48)! I will give Francis credit for not walking a lot of batters and not allowing a lot of homers. Still, that’s not enough to make him seem like a good choice. The Twins rotation already has a lot of Francis-calibre pitchers, and they don’t need another.
Finally, a word on Chris Capuano. I was starting to like the idea of Capuano as a #4 or #5 starter, but it wasn’t meant to be. He signed with the Dodgers today, about two hours after I wrote that he was an intriguing choice. I guess that’s sort of fitting. The Twins stole Ryan Doumit out from under the Dodgers’ noses, and then they snatched Capuano away from the Twins. Each team got one mid-level free agent that the other wanted, so it’s even-Stephen for now. Of course, the Twins still owe L.A. some payback from the 1965 World Series…