Nats’ decision on Jackson comes back to bite them

Five days after the World Series ended, the Nationals had a choice to make: extend Edwin Jackson a qualifying offer, or cut ties with the veteran right-hander completely.

If the Nats presented Jackson with the qualifying offer and he accepted it, he would have been on the books for a one-year, $13.3 million deal in 2013. If he declined the qualifying offer and signed elsewhere, the Nats would receive a valuable compensatory draft pick, which would come between the first and second rounds of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Wanting an upgrade from Jackson for 2013 and fearful that the righty might accept the $13.3 million deal if it was presented to him, general manager Mike Rizzo and his staff decided not to extend Jackson the qualifying offer.

Today, Jackson has reportedly signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs, pending a physical.

As a result of their decision, the Nationals will not get a compensatory draft pick, and Rizzo might be kicking himself, wondering why he didn’t just put the qualifying offer on the table.

When pondering whether to extend Jackson the qualifying offer, the Nats clearly felt that the safest move was just to walk away. They weren’t willing to pay $13.3 million - what they felt was an inflated rate - for another season of Jackson’s services, and not knowing whether he would be interested in another brief stint in D.C., the Nats didn’t come calling with the qualifying offer.

It’s certainly possible that Jackson would have accepted the deal if offered, and the Nats wanted the chance to go get Dan Haren, who they feel will make them a better team. But given Jackson’s desire to secure a multi-year deal and the way the free agent market was set to play out, it seems likely the right-hander would have declined the qualifying offer, had it been presented to him.

Jackson has played with seven teams in 10 major league seasons. He wants some stability, and with a young family, had a desire to land in one city (and just one city) for the next few years.

Starting pitchers have been getting monster contracts this offseason, and it was clear fairly early on that despite Jackson’s career 4.40 ERA, he was going to get what he was looking for on the open market.

The Nationals value their draft picks, especially their high ones. They could still end up getting a compensatory pick if Adam LaRoche decides not to return to the district and instead signs with another team (LaRoche declined the Nats’ qualifying offer), and hindsight is 20-20, but Rizzo and Co. missed out on an opportunity to further stock their farm system by not extending the same offer to Jackson.

Jackson, meanwhile, should be thrilled the Nats played things the way they did.

Teams must forfeit a first-round draft pick if they sign a player who declined a qualifying offer, something they are hesitant to do. As a result, the Orioles, and possibly other teams, are reportedly reluctant to sign LaRoche, since it means giving up a top pick.

Jackson had no such baggage attached to him on the open market, and he ended up getting paid quite handsomely by the Cubs.

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