Right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson, the best free agent remaining on the market, is much more likely to accept a one-year deal and test free agency again after the 2012 season than to ink a multiyear contract, according to an industry source.
And that almost certainly would take Jackson out of the running to come to Baltimore since free-agent pitchers coveting one-year, value-improving deals don't usually seek out last-place American League East teams or hitter-friendly environments.
Jackson, 28, reportedly has several multiyear offers on the table -- one is believed to be from the Orioles -- but he and his agent, Scott Boras, are more motivated to land a one-year deal and have him re-enter the market next season.
The source said Boras has told several teams that a short-term deal is Jackson's current prerogative. With spring training looming, the process is far enough along with Jackson that it would be a surprise if he didn't sign somewhere within the next week.
The one-year, make-good contract is not an unprecedented gamble for a Boras client -- and it has paid off. After a mediocre 2007 season, right-hander Kyle Lohse signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for $4.25 million. He won 15 games that year and that September signed a four-year, $41 million extension with the Cardinals.
After a disappointing 2009 season in Seattle, Boras' client Adrian Beltre agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. The third baseman batted .321 with 28 homers in 2010, then landed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Texas Rangers last offseason.
Jackson was 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA in 32 combined games (31 starts) for the Chicago White Sox and Cardinals. Traded in July to St. Louis, he was 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA and helped get the eventual World Series champions into the playoffs.
Given his relatively young age as a free agent and the fact that he has played for six teams in parts of nine seasons, it was believed that Jackson would be seeking a long-term deal, perhaps four years. And the Orioles, who don't normally entertain that length for a free-agent starting pitcher, wouldn't dismiss considering a four-year offer but seemed more comfortable with three years and perhaps a fourth option year for Jackson.
But it looks as if the plan is for Jackson to sign a short-term deal, then enter again next year at age 29 with other potential free agent starters such as Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain.