Edwin Jackson is about to play for his MLB-record 14th team: Let's rank them all

Oakland Athletics pitcher Edwin Jackson delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
No MLB player has ever racked up moving costs quite like Edwin Jackson. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

In Major League Baseball’s century-plus history, Edwin Jackson stands alone.

Jackson isn’t notable for conventional reasons, like racking up more strikeouts than other pitchers, or big moments in October, or even just being historically awful.

No, Jackson will rather be remembered for mastering the fine art of being good enough to stay in MLB for a more-than-respectable 16 seasons and not good enough to stick with a single team for more than three years.

When he takes the field for the Toronto Blue Jays following the trade on Saturday that shipped him out from the Oakland Athletics, Jackson will set an MLB record with his 14th career team played for. That will break a tie previously held with Octavio Dotel.

Since his debut, Jackson has played for teams in all six MLB divisions. He has made an All-Star team. He has thrown a no-hitter. He has won a World Series ring. He has been traded for Max Scherzer. He has led his league in losses.

He has been traded seven times, four times in the middle of the season. He has signed six minor league deals and just four major league deals, with only two of them worth more than the MLB minimum and one for multiple years.

There may never be a career like Jackson’s again. The man’s Baseball Reference page is simply a sight to behold.

In honor of Jackson’s new place in history as baseball’s ultimate journeyman, here’s our best attempt at ranking all 14 of his MLB tenures.

14. Chicago Cubs (2013-15)

If there’s a single team that truly regrets bringing in Jackson, it is without a doubt the Cubs.

Following a solid 2012 season in which Jackson posted 168 strikeouts and a league-average ERA in 189.2 innings, the rebuilding Cubs decided to take a gamble on the then-29-year-old and hand him a four-year, $52 million deal.

The team’s first clue that the signing wasn’t going to work out was when Jackson and reliever Michael Bowden combined to tie the MLB record for wild pitches in an inning with five. Jackson would end that season with an MLB-worst 18 losses and a 4.98 ERA. The next season, he posted 15 losses and a 6.33 ERA. He understandably began the 2015 season working out of the bullpen, then was designated for assignment in July.

The Cubs ended up paying $52 million for -3.5 bWAR. That one’s probably not going into Theo Epstein’s Hall of Fame case.

Also unfortunate were Jackson’s comments when he first signed with the Cubs:

"I think the most assuring part is you have a chance to relax and have a chance to know you're going to be somewhere for a while, and you don't have to feel like you have to prove yourself every year," Jackson said of his new deal. "I feel like it's definitely going to help for myself just to go out and have fun and not worry about anything else."

Jackson has since played for seven different MLB teams.

13. Baltimore Orioles (2017)

12. Miami Marlins (2016)

11. San Diego Padres (2016)

These three tenures can pretty much be grouped together as the near-end of Jackson’s career. Over the course of 2016 and 2017, Jackson was cut loose or elected free agency by four different teams. His 5.57 ERA over that span was reason enough to believe that Jackson was close to a forced retirement.

Fortunately, he wasn’t.

10. Toronto Blue Jays (2011, 2019)

That the Blue Jays, a team Jackson has never actually thrown a pitch for, is four spots away from his worst entry should tell you just how bizarre a career Jackson has had.

Jackson is actually rejoining the Blue Jays after a brief stint in 2011. After landing in Toronto through a trade with the Chicago White Sox, Jackson was quickly flipped to the St. Louis Cardinals. His tenure resumes on Sunday.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers (2003-05)

Jackson’s career had to start somewhere. The Dodgers originally drafted Jackson as an outfielder in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB draft, but they soon converted the athletic youngster to a pitcher.

The right-hander picked up some prospect hype on his way to the majors, but the Dodgers ended up trading him after three years of a 5.50 ERA in the majors. If only they knew what they were letting go.

8. Atlanta Braves (2015)

Until 2016, the shortest stint Jackson ever had with a team (in which he made an actual appearance) was Atlanta. Sure, his 24.2 innings didn’t mean much to the rebuilding Braves, but he at least posted a 2.92 ERA and his first career save.

7. Tampa Bay Rays (2006-08)

Jackson’s second MLB team, it was in Tampa Bay where Jackson first established himself as an MLB starter. Not a quality starter, but a starter nonetheless.

After pitching 35.1 below-average innings out of the bullpen in 2006, Jackson joined the Rays rotation for the next two years. His numbers (5.08 ERA, 88 ERA+, 4.85 FIP) weren’t impressive during those three seasons, but he was at least part of the Rays’ stunning rise from the AL East basement to a division title in 2008.

It’s also worth noting that at this point, Jackson had spent the first six years of his MLB career with only two teams.

6. Chicago White Sox (2010-11)

Merge Jackson’s two half-seasons with the White Sox and you end up with a pretty solid year of 196.2 innings with a 3.66 ERA and 3.22 FIP. Not much else happened with Jackson while he was with the White Sox, but his sustained success is something, at least.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks (2010)

Again, it should really tell you something that the team Jackson pitched a no-hitter for is only fifth on the list. Outside of that magical night in 2010, Jackson was thoroughly mediocre for the D-backs with a 5.16 ERA in 134.1 innings.

Jackson’s no-hitter is also considered one of the most unimpressive examples of the hallowed achievement as he required 149 pitches and yielded nine baseunners while doing it. A month later, Jackson was traded to the White Sox, becoming the first pitcher since 1951 to be traded away during a season in which he had thrown a no-hitter. That might be the most Edwin Jackson stat of all time.

Also working against Jackson’s Arizona tenure is that he only joined the team through a trade that sent a little-known starter named Max Scherzer to the Tigers.

4. Washington Nationals (2012, 2017)

Until Jackson throws a pitch for the Blue Jays, the Nats remain the only team to ever bring Jackson back for a second stint. They were also the only team with which Jackson performed well enough to get a multi-year deal in the following offseason.

The fourth starter of the 2012 Nationals team that surged to the top of the NL East, Jackson held an ERA below 3.00 as late as June 28. A pair of eight-earned run outings would later sandbag his ERA to 4.03, but he was a key part of a division-winning team.

The Nationals would later bring Jackson back in 2017, but that did not go nearly as well.

3. Oakland Athletics (2018)

Jackson’s time with the Athletics started with what might have been the lowest expectations of his career. It had been three years and four teams since Jackson had posted an ERA below 5.00 in a season. He was only available because he had opted out of a minor-league deal after posting a 3.40 ERA at Triple-A.

Clearly, he was perfect for the A’s.

Jackson joined the Athletics midway through the season and delivered a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts for an unlikely 97-win team down the stretch. He also notched his 100th career win, which led to some introspection with the San Francisco Chronicle:

“To look back where I came from and envision I’d have 100 major-league wins, it’s special, man,” Jackson said from his locker while accompanied by his 6-year-old son, Exavier, who was holding a ball with “100” written on it.

“I’ve been blessed with a crazy but successful career. To do be able to do it with these guys in the fashion they did it in, it makes it even more special.”

If there’s ever an Edwin Jackson biopic, center it around this season and fuel it with flashbacks.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (2011)

A tenure featuring 13 regular-season games and 12 starts is No. 2 on this list. Yes, weird career.

Traded from the Blue Jays to the Cardinals near the 2011 trade deadline, Jackson was quickly inserted into the St. Louis rotation and was solid down the stretch with a 3.58 ERA. He was also part of the Cardinals’ playoff rotation that won a ring, though his Game 4 loss in the World Series didn’t exactly spark the team’s run.

Of course, a ring trumps all. With one exception.

1. Detroit Tigers (2009)

And here we have it: the one year in which Jackson was just a normal, good pitcher with the same team for an entire season.

A hot first half in which he notched a 2.52 ERA and 97 strikeouts was enough to get Jackson to the only All-Star game of his career, where he pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning on four pitches.

The Tigers-Diamondbacks trade the following season would essentially mark the beginning of Jackson’s career of bouncing between teams. Having to constantly pick up your life so many times just to keep on playing baseball sounds like a stressful way to live 16 years of your life, but at least Jackson can look back and know that he occupies one of those weird nooks of history that make baseball so great.

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