Austin Jackson was acquired at the August waiver deadline last year as a defensive option and possible audition for next year’s center field job. Now with Dexter Fowler likely to sign elsewhere, Jackson could find himself returning to the Cubs if management liked what they saw.
On the surface, Jackson has some solid career numbers. In the past six seasons, the 29-year old right hander has batted .273/.333/.399 with 170 doubles, 47 triples, 55 home runs, 296 RBI and 106 stolen bases. His platoon splits are fairly even as well with a .278 average against righties and .261 average against lefties. He’s also been a pretty solid defender overall and ranks as slightly above average in center and in the corners.
If you dig a little deeper though, Jackson’s numbers over the past two years haven’t been nearly as impressive thanks to plummeting plate discipline. Since 2014, he owns a career .261/.310/.365 line with just 76 walks versus 270 strikeouts. His OPS over those two years stands at just .675, a little more than 50 points below his career numbers and barely above replacement level.
A one- to two-year deal with incentives and to rebuild his value to other teams makes a lot of sense for Jackson. But with Scott Boras as his agent, it’s probably going to take at least $10 million per year to get it done.
Colby Rasmus signed a similar deal last year with the Astros at $8 million. In his previous season, Rasmus saw his own plate discipline plummet, but his power numbers stay up. He turned it around for the Astros and almost doubled his salary after accepting a qualifying offer.
With just Fowler and Denard Span as other potential options on the free agent market, Jackson may be wise as a buy low alternative that could pay him a lot more money in the following year.
The signing of Jackson may make sense for a Cubs team that’s currently in the midst of a lot of changes to its roster. With the signing of Ben Zobrist to fill the leadoff role, Jackson may be a solid under the radar buy who the team could plug into center field with no worries. Even at a two-year deal, he would be a nice bridge player for Albert Almora Jr. to get enough seasoning in the majors and then transition back into the defensive replacement role he played last year.
Free Agent Profiles
- INF/OF Ben Zobrist
- OF Alex Gordon
- OF Jason Heyward
- RHP Mike Leake
- OF Denard Span
- OF Gerardo Parra
- OF Will Venable
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