When the Miami Marlins set off to improve the rotation for the 2016 season, they did not necessarily make any large claims for big names like David Price or Zack Greinke, but the thought was that the Marlins would shop on the mid-tier market, where names like Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, and Ian Kennedy sat. Instead, the first signing the Marlins are likely to make in the pitching market is in the bargain bin, as the Marlins are close to a signing Edwin Jackson to a Major League contract.
This is not supposed to be the Marlins' big move, apparently, as the Fish are still planning on pursuing other pitching options even after they sign Jackson. Still, this move hardly inspires confidence in the Marlins' plans. After all, Jackson spent the 2015 season primarily pitching out of the bullpen, the first time he had done this in his career. And he was not necessarily good; his 3.07 ERA mixed mediocre work in terms of strikeouts and an increase in walks that does not bode well, especially since all of the work came out of the pen.
This is a low-upside move for the Marlins. Jackson has not been even an average pitcher since 2012 with the Washington Nationals, and he has never been fully considered an average or better performer in his career. His run from 2009 to 2012 was his best as a big-leaguer, and in that four-year span, he was only about five percent better than the league average in terms of run prevention. That is a decent pitcher, but not a good addition, especially three years removed from his last objectively good performance.
But again, he is not being asked to fully replace any of the current rotation challengers. He is simply another name added to the mix to provide Miami depth in their rotation battle. Jackson can be placed in a challenger role alongside any number of Marlins pitching prospects like Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena or veteran names like David Phelps. He is just another person in the mix, and if he loses out in that battle, the Fish always the option of shifting him back to the bullpen, where at least he posted acceptable numbers with the Cubs last year.
Of course, that implies that Jackson would be even guaranteed his position. The most important part of this potential deal is that Jackson would be signing for the league minimum salary for veterans. The Fish would essentially not be expending any resources on Jackson, because some form of the league minimum is required of every roster spot. If Jackson falters, the Marlins simply would cut him without any bother, as he would be owed a relative pittance compared to other past signings. The reason why Jackson will be owed so little is that he is still technically under contract with the Cubs, who owe him $11 million for his final year of his four-year deal from which he was released.
The odds of Jackson becoming a good player for Miami is pretty low, and indeed the days of him even being a hard-throwing righty are probably past. But Miami is not paying much to find out, and Jackson still has to get through Spring Training and other offseason moves before he is guaranteed any role. It is a low-upside, low-cost signing of ultimately limited significance to the Marlins.