And so it is that another of the Rangers' reputed targets has been erased from their off-season whiteboard, as multiple sources -- including CSNChicago's Patrick Mooney -- are reporting this afternoon that the Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms with free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson on a four-year, $52 million deal. Less than 48 hours ago, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden tweeted that the Padres had withdrawn from the Jackson hunt after declining to go as far as four years, and noted that the only two teams left in the hunt were the Cubs and the Rangers.
Texas, however, was reported to be interested more in a short-term deal than a long-term deal on Jackson, and I think it's reasonable to surmise that the Rangers also balked at the idea of going as far as four guaranteed years on Jackson. We never went terribly deep as far as discussing Jackson (which I suppose is for the best now that he's landed elsewhere), but I can get why four years for a mid-rotation-type pitcher on a first-division club might not have been an appealing proposition for Texas. Six different employers in the last five years may speak to some of the frustration that lingers out there within major league circles over Jackson's inability to harness his ace-caliber stuff into ace-caliber performance and start-to-start inconsistency, and you wonder if there was some thinking among Rangers' brass that $50-plus million was too rich for an inconsistent mid-rotation worker whose youth and upside are rapidly slipping away.
The flip side of the Jackson argument, however, is that an organization steeped in pitching knowledge like the Rangers -- who have both Nolan Ryan and the Maddux brothers on the payroll -- could conceivably have coaxed some sort of a breakthrough out of Jackson, and that his ground-ball tendencies, excellent durability, and above-average peripherals would have played well in front of the Rangers' defense, which figures to remain fairly sturdy across the defensive spectrum in 2013. And, ultimately, if you want the Rangers to improve their 2013 ballclub with diminished concern for the long-term ramifications of doing so, there's a pretty good chance that you wanted the Rangers to go and get Jackson.
I can't express great surprise at the fact that nothing came of this fleeting Rangers/Jackson dalliance, though, and it's getting harder to imagine Texas tapping into the free-agent pool for any sort of off-season rotation ugprade, given that the best options still lingering out there are Kyle Lohse -- whom I can't talk myself into buying as a smart play for the Rangers at his likely price point -- and a withering Shaun Marcum. If you're looking for something better at the back of the Opening Day rotation than a Martin Perez or a Robbie Ross or a Justin Grimm, but you're as thoroughly turned off by Lohse/Marcum as I am, then you're best served by turning a keen eye towards the trade market and hoping for the best.