Necessary Roster Move #1 went through tonight with the team announcing that Steven Jackson is being designated for assignment to make room for Brandon Jones on the 40-man roster. This isn’t really the move people were expecting, but it’s interesting on a few levels.
First off, dropping Jackson says to me that it’s pretty likely the Pirates are expecting Octavio Dotel to sign in the near future. It’s also telling that Jackson got the axe and not Chris Jakubauskas or Anthony Claggett. Maybe the Pirates thought Jackson was more likely to clear waivers, or maybe they’re honestly more interested in trying Claggett/Jakubauskas out for a role in the 2010 bullpen.
Second, don’t assume that it means that Brandon Moss or Steve Pearce or Neil Walker or even Brandon Jones are safe. When Dotel does sign, another move will obviously be necessary and Huntington could be working on making another Bixler-type trade to free that spot up. In fact, I still think some sort of minor trade for one or more of those guys is coming down the pipeline in the next day or so.
Finally, don’t confuse Jackson’s ERA in 2009 for something it’s not. In his 43 innings last year, he walked 22 and struck out 21. His FIP (4.26) and xFIP (5.34) were both much higher than his ERA. His sinker is a nice pitch, but his groundout rate (43.6% in 2009) wasn’t spectacular and his minor league strikeout rate isn’t great for a reliever (7.0/9). There’s probably a decent chance he’ll pass through waivers and the Pirates can keep him, but if they can’t it’s probably not going to be something worth losing sleep over. I’m sure we’ll have a better idea of the full picture here by the end of the week.