Lohse deal highlights good fortune of Cubs’ Edwin Jackson
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 26, 2013 9:42PM
Updated: April 28, 2013 7:05AM
MESA, Ariz. — When Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson learned this week that former St. Louis Cardinals teammate Kyle Lohse finally landed a free-agent deal, he sent him a text right away.
‘‘I told him, ‘Congrats. Go deal. Go pitch like you know you can,’ ’’ Jackson said.
It was about the only thing that happened right away for Lohse, who got his three-year, $33 million deal from the Milwaukee Brewers almost exactly six months after becoming a free agent and nearly three months after Jackson got his four-year, $52 million deal from the Cubs. This despite a 16-3 season with a 2.86 ERA and a career-high 211 innings.
‘‘Everybody was surprised,’’ Jackson said of how long Lohse lingered on the market.
But everybody also knew why. In fact, Lohse and Jackson were opposing case studies for the new free-agent compensation rules that cost teams first- or high-second-round draft picks — as well as the strictly allotted bonus money for those picks — for signing free agents who received ‘‘qualifying offers.’’
Lohse was one of nine players who received one of those $13.3 million offers. Jackson was not — a move that surprised many who followed the Washington Nationals in the weeks after their postseason run.
Jackson’s former agent Scott Boras, who represents Lohse and another high-caliber free agent who went unsigned until spring training, outfielder Michael Bourn, called the new system ‘‘corrupt.’’
‘‘When you have a system that does not reward performance, you know we have something corrupt in the major-league process,’’ Boras told FoxSports.com on Monday.
Jackson’s not sure about the whole ‘‘corrupt’’ thing and wouldn’t weigh in on whether the rules should be changed.
He does seem to have survived the free-agent process under the new rules as one of the fortunate ones, thanks to the Nationals’ decision to let him go without the qualifying offer.
‘‘Maybe,’’ he said. ‘‘Had it been a different situation, a different scenario, it’s hard to say what would have happened. Either way, it worked out.’’
Field goals high
After a season of fielding improvement under the new field staff, manager Dale Sveum has high expectations for the Cubs defensively this year.
They’ll probably need everything they get, given the still-suspect lineup they’ll field.
‘‘Besides throwing a ball away [Monday], you’re probably hard-pressed to think there’s a better defensive team in spring training this year,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘We’ve played really good defense all the way around. The catching’s been outstanding. Obviously, our infield play has been off the charts. And our outfielders have done a good job. When you play good outfield in Arizona [with the high sky and tough sun], you can play outfield anywhere. . . .
‘‘You’ve got numerous situations where we’re just completely, much, much better than a year ago.’’
That includes having first baseman Anthony Rizzo for a full season at first and David DeJesus moving to center as an upgrade over Marlon Byrd, with strong-fielding Nate Schierholtz as the every-day right fielder. The Welington Castillo/Dioner Navarro combination behind the plate is an upgrade over Geovany Soto, and Luis Valbuena is at least defensively strong at third, if not a classic corner-infield hitter.
‘‘It stacks up to be pretty solid on an every-day basis,” said Sveum, who returns a Gold Glove second baseman (Darwin Barney) and an improved shortstop (Starlin Castro) who cut down on his mental lapses in the field last year. ‘‘Now the next level you’ve got to get to is where those are very, very minimal.’’