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Edwin Jackson: Chicago Cubs Free-Agent Bust?

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COMMENTARY | Reliable major-league pitching isn't exactly easy to come by.

So when the Chicago Cubs signed starting pitcher Edwin Jackson in early January to a four-year, $52 million deal, it wasn't with the expectation that he would win a Cy Young Award as a Cub. Instead, the Cubs hoped he would add depth to the rotation and that the investment would be returned with a lot of innings pitched and a .500 win-loss record.

Admittedly, the Cubs didn't exactly have to fight others to get Jackson, who is 29 years old and has played for the the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, and now the Cubs in the past six seasons alone.

As a starter for a Nationals team that made the playoffs in 2012, he won 10 games with a 4.03 ERA. His career highlight so far came came in 2010 when he threw a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But Jackson's work as a Cub in 2013 hasn't exactly gone as planned. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has graded Jackson's output at an "F" -- and for good reason. Jackson lost his first five decisions and currently possesses a concerning 6.02 ERA. Locating pitches has been a problem, which leads to hittable pitches and high pitch counts. In eight starts, he has only gotten through the sixth inning three times.

At his worst, Jackson gave up eight earned runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings of work against the San Diego Padres and also notoriously contributed to a wild-pitch record in no-decision against the San Francisco Giants.

All these numbers have come during a time when the Cubs need Jackson to perform well because Matt Garza and Scott Baker, both battling injuries, have yet to make appearances this season.

It is definitely too early to panic about Jackson -- he's got three-plus years left on the contract after all -- but he's healthy, experienced, and getting paid plenty of money, so the available excuses are few. Cubs fans gave up on "patience" a long time ago.

Recently, Jackson did show some sign of life as he got his first win of the season by beating former teammate Stephen Strasburg on May 11. He also had two RBIs in the game.

"It was definitely nice to get the monkey off my back and help contribute to the team win," Jackson told the Chicago Tribune.

But his self-assessment may be too generous. He's still got a lot of work to do to get the monkey off his back.

Chris Schumerth is a freelance writer who grew up in Northern Indiana following the Cubs. You can find him on Twitter @schumes22.

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