Comcast SportsNet Chicago reported Thursday that the Cubs and Jackson have agreed on a four-year, $52 million deal. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network reported the Cubs had signed Villanueva to a two-year, $10 million contract. Both deals were contingent upon the players passing physicals.
The Cubs would not confirm or comment on the reports.
However, Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, who was Jackson's teammate in Tampa in 2008, wondered out loud on his Twitter account what uniform number the right-hander would wear with the team. Garza then welcomed Jackson on Twitter on Thursday: "Like I said last night, EJax is my boy! I heard it from a cubs horse last night!! That horse being EJax! Nice to have another in the stable!"
Jackson, 29, was being courted by several teams, including the Padres, Rangers and Indians. The right-hander is coming off a 10-11 record and 4.03 ERA with the Nationals last season. In Jackson's career, he's 14-9 with a 3.95 ERA in 38 games (36 starts) against the National League Central. A durable pitcher, he's averaged 199 innings the last five seasons.
The Cubs already have added free agent pitchers Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, signing both to one-year contracts. But the team wanted more depth, especially if Baker and Matt Garza are not ready. Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and Garza has just started throwing for the first time since July 21. He was shut down at that time because of a right elbow injury.
Villanueva, 29, could start or pitch in relief. He made 16 starts and 22 relief appearances last season for the Blue Jays, compiling a 4.16 ERA over 125 1/3 innings. The right-hander, who made $2,277,000 in 2012, has pitched for the Brewers and Blue Jays, making 29 starts in the last two seasons with Toronto. In his career as a starter, he is 16-22 with a 4.80 ERA in 56 games.
Adding more pitching has been a priority. In 2012, the Cubs used a franchise-record 30 pitchers. The rotation could be Jackson, Garza, Baker, Jeff Samardzija, and either Feldman, Villanueva or Travis Wood. Arodys Vizcaino also is coming back from Tommy John surgery.
The Cubs had pursued free agent Anibal Sanchez, and reportedly offered him a five year, $77 million deal, which came as a surprise after the team's "buy low" approach. Sanchez opted to re-sign with the Tigers for $80 million.
The Cubs' payroll has topped $100 million each of the last five years, and general manager Jed Hoyer said they have money to spend but also cautioned that they would be smart about their signings.
"We try to think of it as, ultimately, we're investing money, and that's what we're doing in players, and if you can't find a wise investment, hold off and there will be other times to make a wise investment," Hoyer said earlier this month. "You try to be patient, and it's not a sexy thing to talk about, being patient, but I'll feel a lot better about that than making a big splash about somebody you don't feel convicted about. You'll probably regret that move more later than if you're keeping your power dry and finding a lot more prudent way to spend it."
None of the Cubs' additions will cost the team a future Draft pick. The Nationals declined to make Jackson a qualifying offer.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.