Austin Jackson Rumors

August Trade Notes: Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Astros

Tonight marks the end of the August trade period, and two deals have already gone down today. Clubs that wish to add players from outside their organizations who are eligible to play in the post-season must do so by midnight eastern time. Of course, to be dealt, players must either clear revocable trade waivers or have been claimed by the team that seeks to acquire them.

Here’s the latest chatter with one and a half hours to the deadline:

  • The Cubs are “pushing hard” to bolster their pitching staff before tonight’s deadline, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Chicago has already added several veteran arms over the last few months, but apparently is still looking at possible moves over the next few hours.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers have their eye on a relatively minor addition of outfield depth this evening, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. With several injuries to right-handed outfielders, the club could seemingly stand to put another option on its roster.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence may be progressing more slowly from his oblique injury than had been hoped, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets. Manager Bruce Bochy did note that there hasn’t been any setback, though Pence may have been hoping to feel better in his light hitting session today, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News adds on Twitter. We heard earlier this evening that San Francisco remained active in the market, with outfielder Alejandro De Aza still on their radar and a continued desire to add an infielder.
  • While he’s now ticketed for Chicago, Austin Jackson drew interest from the Orioles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Baltimore has been said to be quite active over the month of August even as they’ve faded in the standings. As things stood before they lost tonight, however, the club was already 5.5 games out of the Wild Card and a full 11 back in the AL East.
  • While the Astros pursued several avenues over the month of August, they appear set to move on with only the addition of lefty Oliver Perez, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes“We made some, a few claims that we didn’t get,” said GM Jeff Luhnow. “And [on]] players we probably would have been interested in working out a deal for, but it didn’t work out. We feel pretty good about the guys we have on our roster right now.”

Cubs Acquire Austin Jackson

6:26pm: The deal is now official, with the Cubs making an announcement.

6:20pm: Chicago will cover $1MM of Jackson’s remaining salary, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The Mariners will pay the $430K or so of obligations otherwise left on his deal.

5:04pm: The Cubs have agreed to acquire outfielder Austin Jackson from the Mariners, Shannon Drayer of 710 AM ESPN in Seattle reports (Twitter link). Jackson had reportedly cleared revocable trade waivers, and by adding him today, the Cubs will have the option of utilizing him on their post-season roster.

A player to be named later and a $211,100 international signing slot will reportedly head to Seattle in the deal. Chicago also obtains cash to offset some of the remainder of Jackson’s $7.7MM annual salary.

Aug 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson (16) runs the bases after hitting a two RBI home run during the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Already set to hit free agency after the season, Jackson will end his disappointing tenure in Seattle earlier than had been planned. He was acquired with high hopes last summer in the three-team David Price deal, with the Mariners sending Nick Franklin to the Rays to add the center fielder from the Tigers. Needless to say, things have not worked out for the player or the team.

At the time, Jackson was putting up slightly-above-average offensive numbers in Detroit. But he’s been significantly worse with the M’s, slashing just .257/.297/.343 over 684 plate appearances between this year and last. Jackson has contributed only eight home runs in that span as his power has fallen off, and he’s been caught 11 times on steal attempts while successfully taking 26 bags.

Jackson remains an approximately league-average defender up the middle. And at just 28 years of age, he still holds at least some promise of more given his quality early-career production. Between 2010 and 2013, Jackson racked up 18.9 rWAR with a .278/.344/.416 cumulative slash, a solid power/speed mix, and defensive ratings that ranged from good to excellent.

Mariners interim GM Jeff Kingston explained that there was relatively little interest in the veteran this month, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes on Twitter. While there had been an outside chance that the club would hold onto Jackson and make him a qualifying offer, that is no longer an option with the mid-season trade. That seemed at least plausible given Jackson’s age, but it seems that Seattle decided against the risky move and chose instead to get what it could for him now.

For Chicago, Jackson represents another right-handed-hitting outfield option as Jorge Soler deals with an oblique injury, though it’s worth noting that he traditionally carries fairly neutral platoon splits. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Jackson can play in center, but he seems unlikely to take much time from the switch-hitting Dexter Fowler, who traditionally performs better against left-handed pitching. While Jackson is still owed about $1.43MM of salary this year, at least some of that obligation will remain Seattle’s responsibility.

MLB.com’s Greg Johns first suggested an international slot may be involved (via Twitter), as to which Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (also via Twitter) provided details. Divish first reported that a PTBNL was part of the return (on Twitter) provided details. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Cafardo On Rangers, Jackson, Brewers, Yankees

The Red Sox didn’t go by MLB’s minority hiring rules when they interviewed only Dave Dombrowski for the president of baseball ops role but they have been instructed to do so for the GM job, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  If the Red Sox take the step of hiring a minority GM candidate, Cafardo suggests that Ken Williams would be a strong choice if he chooses to leave Chicago.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • The Rangers were very interested in acquiring Austin Jackson “a few days ago,” but nothing came of those talks, Cafardo writes.  Jackson, 28, cleared waivers last week and was said to be generating interest, though it appears that no one wanted to take the remaining ~$1.7MM salary off the Mariners‘ hands.
  • Former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is in play for the Brewers job, a major league source tells Cafardo.  “Despite his last-place finishes he’s seen as a team builder, especially when it comes to farm systems,” said the source.   The Angels, Mariners, and Phillies are also thought to be possibilities for Cherington.
  • The Yankees have been blocked in every attempt to add to their pitching, both out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation. Baseball sources tell Cafardo that GM Brian Cashman doesn’t seem optimistic about his odds of pulling anything off.  The Mets have been blocked from adding a reliever as well.
  • The Royals want a backup catcher for the playoffs just in case something happens to Salvador Perez.  KC turned down the opportunity to land A.J. Pierzynski from the Braves, Cafardo writes, but they’re still looking for an affordable left-handed hitting backstop. Some KC scouts like the Red Sox’s Ryan Hanigan, but he hits right-handed and has a $3.7MM salary next year with an option for 2017.
  • Unsurprisingly, Cafardo hears that the Rangers are looking for offense, the Twins are looking for relief help, and the Blue Jays want to add to their bullpen.  However, a deal for Toronto doesn’t seem likely at this time.
  • Cafardo writes that the Nationals, Padres, Red Sox, Mariners, Reds, Orioles, Indians, and Tigers are expected to be quite active this winter.


Austin Jackson Clears Waivers, Generating Interest

Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson has cleared revocable trade waivers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The free-agent-to-be has been discussed recently in trade talks, per the report.

Jackson, 28, has had something of an up-and-down season but has generally disappointed since coming to Seattle last summer in the three-team David Price deal. (The Mariners shipped Nick Franklin to the Rays to add Jackson from the Tigers.) All told, he’s slashed .259/.302/.365 on the year while adding seven home runs. Though Jackson has swiped 15 bags, he’s been caught on nine attempts.

With free agency looming, Jackson’s value is well down off its peak. Between 2010 and 2013, he compiled a cumulative .278/.344/.416 batting line while often tallying double-digit home runs and steals. With good defensive ratings in center field, he racked up an average of 4.7 rWAR in that span.

With that solid base of stats to work from, Jackson cost the M’s $7.7MM this year via arbitration. About $1.725MM of that still remains to be paid, but apparently no teams were interested in paying the full amount.

The right-handed hitter continues to put up roughly equivalent numbers against right-handed and left-handed pitching, so he’s not a clear platoon player, though he could certainly make sense for a contender as a fourth outfielder. Jackson is one of several outfielders who have now been reported to have cleared trade waivers. Click here for the full list of reportedly clearing players.


Mariners Unlikely To Add Big-Name Player In Trade

While the Mariners remain in the market for a backup catcher and perhaps a right-handed reliever, GM Jack Zduriencik makes a move for a significant name between now and the non-waiver trade deadline seem unlikely. Via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, Zduriencik said the team’s acquisition of Mark Trumbo may be its most notable move:

“We did the Mark Trumbo thing. We tried to jump the market and make a deal at the time that we thought could bring in, what we considered, a pretty good power bat for our lineup, to help augment what we already have. I think anything else will probably be moves within the organization. There’s always the possibility something could happen, but you’re not really counting on it.”

The Mariners have aggressively attempted to remedy what has a perennially disappointing offense through both free agency and trades over the past two seasons, but to little avail. Both Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were signed to significant free agent contracts, while on the trade market, Zduriencik has acquired Trumbo, Austin Jackson, Seth Smith and the since-designated-for-assignment Justin Ruggiano. While Cano was excellent in his first season with Seattle and Cruz is hitting quite well in 2015, the moves, as a whole, have done little to help the Mariners overcome their run-suppressing home environment. And as Divish notes, the decision to part with Welington Castillo in the Trumbo trade is presently haunting the Mariners. Castillo’s bat looks revitalized with Arizona — .289/.366/.533 in 101 PAs — while the Mariners continue to receive little offensive production behind the plate. (Of course, Arizona’s hitter-friendly environment must be considered as well.)

Divish goes on to write that a hot start to the second half could lead Zduriencik to seek ownership approval to make further additions, though current asking prices are beyond what the Mariners have to offer in prospect collateral. Furthermore, continued struggles could lead to the sale of impending free agents such as Hisashi Iwakuma, J.A. Happ and Jackson. Such a fade could also bring into question Zduriencik’s future with the club, Divish notes, as expectations entering the season were high.

One encouraging note for the Mariners and their fans should be the relative ease of their second-half schedule. As ESPN’s Buster Olney noted earlier today in ranking the strength of clubs’ remaining schedules, the Mariners are currently slated to play just 22 of their final 73 games against clubs that carried a record of .500 or better into the All-Star break. The bad news for Seattle, though, is that many of those games will come in the next two weeks. The Mariners took a tough 4-3 loss at Yankee Stadium last night, and after two more games there, they’ll head to Detroit for four games before hosting the Blue Jays for three. The only games they’ll play against a sub-.500 team prior to the trade deadline will be when they host the D-Backs from July 27-29. From there, they head to Minnesota for a four-game set.


Free Agent Stock Watch: Center Fielders

With more than a fifth of the season in the books, we’ve had an early look (a peek, really) into where things may be headed on next winter’s free agent market. One of the most interesting positions to watch, in my estimation, is center field, where there are several players who had a lot to prove coming into the season.

There figure to be several clubs looking at adding new, mid-term or long-term options. The Indians, Mariners, Rangers, Athletics, Rangers, Cubs, and Padres all look like fairly good bets to at least dabble in the market at center. Depending upon how things shake out, it is not impossible to imagine that clubs like the Blue Jays, Tigers, Astros, Cardinals, and Giants could be as well.

Looking at MLBTR’s 2016 free agent list, which documents the players currently on track to qualify for the open market, a small group stands out as possible starting-caliber options. The trio is particularly interesting because they were so tightly bunched coming into the season — all looking to be solidly average to above-average performers, depending on one’s particular viewpoint. (Note: I’m not considering Colby Rasmus here because he has spent most of his time in the corner outfield this year. But he could also figure into the mix.)

Let’s see where things stand:

Value up: Denard Span, Nationals.

After missing the spring and early part of the season following core muscle surgery, Span needed more than ever to show that he could repeat last year’s excellent campaign. Things are certainly pointing up in the early going, as he owns a .316/.375/.532 slash over 88 turns at bat.

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While it’s obviously unlikely that he’ll maintain that kind of power output — his current .215 ISO is more than double than his career 108 mark — Span is driving the ball consistently, as he did in 2014, while posting an impeccable strikeout-to-walk ratio. His .310 BABIP actually trails his career levels slightly, so it seems that quality contact is driving the early productivity.

Overall regression is almost certainly in store, but the early returns serve to confirm that Span is a quality top-of-the-order bat and, perhaps more importantly, that he is healthy. Span will need to keep things up in both regards after entering the year with injury questions and as the elder member (31 years of age) of the group considered in this post. Of course, he could stand to see a boost in his somewhat lagging early defensive ratings (which seem to belie the perceptions of some around the game) and his stolen base tallies, but the arrow is pointing up overall and he’s done the most to increase his stock.

Value neutral: Dexter Fowler, Cubs.

While his walks are down somewhat early, Fowlers continues to deliver solid results at the plate with a fairly typical .262/.345/.397 batting line. He has shown more at times, but that lands firmly within expectations. More promisingly, the 29-year-old has swiped eight bags already and is on pace for career highs in that arena, though he has been caught three times as well.

The major talent assessment question with Fowler is his defense in center. He has spent much of his time in tough-to-patrol outfields — Coors Field and Minute Maid Park — and rated terribly at the position last year (tallying negative 20 Defensive Runs Saved and negative 21.8 UZR on the year). That has turned around somewhat in a still-small sample this year in Chicago, with Fowler posting positive UZR marks (10.7 UZR/15) while receiving a less-glowing -3 DRS rating.

All said, the early speed and defense returns rate as good signs for Fowler, and the results at the plate have done nothing to detract from his appeal. You could argue, then, that his value is slightly on the rise. If nothing else, Fowler seems a reasonable target at center, after entering the year with the possibility that he’d be viewed more as a corner option. Some clubs may still end up seeing him that way, of course, especially as it is really too soon to draw much from defensive numbers. All said, Fowler’s value is largely holding steady at the present time.

Value down: Austin Jackson, Mariners.

Jackson looked like a nice get for the Mariners at last year’s trade deadline, but has been a significant disappointment thus far in Seattle. He just turned 28 a few months back, but 2015 has continued a troubling downturn in his overall productivity.

Over 339 plate appearances with the M’s, Jackson has put up a meager .233/.275/.280 line with two home runs. He has added a healthy 16 stolen bases over that stretch, but that’s hardly enough to offset concerns. To be sure, Jackson’s .284 BABIP is due for some positive regression — his career mark sits at .351 and he’s never ended a professional season below last year’s .325 — and his strikeout/walk numbers are in line with career norms. But he is making more weak contact than ever before while hitting more groundballs (50%) this year than is his custom.

Jackson still rates as a solid average center fielder and seems to have the legs to maintain that going forward. His current DL stint with a sprained ankle is probably not cause for any long-term concern, and may even afford him a chance to work on his difficulties if he takes a short rehab stint. But the sub-.100 ISO he has carried over this season and last has significantly reduced his appeal. There’s plenty of time for a turnaround, but Jackson is trending down at present.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Mariners Avoid Arb With Jackson, Morrison, Ackley, Furbush

4:10pm: Jackson will earn $7.7MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

2:02pm: The Mariners announced today that they’ve avoided arbitration with Austin Jackson, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley and Charlie Furbush. The team also confirmed its previously reported agreement with Justin Ruggiano, who also avoided arbitration.

Terms of Jackson’s signing are not yet known, though he projected to earn $8MM in arbitration, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Meanwhile, Mike Perchick of WAPT has the salary figures for each of the others (All Twitter links). Morrison will earn $2.725MM with the ability to earn an extra $25K for reaching 500 and 600 plate appearances. Ackley settled at $2.6MM and will receive an additional $50K upon reaching 500 plate appearances. Furbush is penciled in for a $1.3MM salary that contains no incentives or bonuses.

Morrison, Ackley and Furbush were projected to receive respective salaries of $2.6MM, $2.8MM and $1MM. Meanwhile, the Mariners noted that Tom Wilhelmsen is still arb-eligible, suggesting that the two sides have exchanged or will exchange figures. A deal could still be agreed upon before a hearing, however.


Tigers Avoid Arbitration With Porcello, Jackson

The Tigers and Rick Porcello have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $8.5MM deal, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). They've also agreed to a $6MM deal for 2014 with Austin Jackson, Sherman tweets.

Porcello, 25, was arb-eligible for the third time this offseason as a Super Two player. The Excel Sports client is controllable through the 2015 campaign and was projected to earn $7.7MM, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Porcello relies heavily on his high ground-ball rate and could see an uptick in performance with a new-look — and presumably, defensively superior — infield behind him in 2014.

Jackson, 26, is also controllable through the 2015 campaign, though he is not a Super Two player. A Scott Boras client, Jackson had been projected by Swartz to earn $5.3MM.


AL Central Notes: Jackson, Pelfrey, Garza, Butler

The Tigers have discussed trading Austin Jackson to the Yankees in exchange for Brett Gardner, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports.  Both players have been above-average fielders in center over their careers and have comparable career batting lines, though Gardner is a better base-stealer and Jackson has more doubles pop.  Jackson turns 27 in February, is projected to earn $5.3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility and he'll hit free agency after the 2015 season; the 30-year-old Gardner is projected to earn $4MM and he'll be a free agent next winter.  I'm not sure this deal makes sense for the Tigers unless they don't think they can sign Jackson (a Scott Boras client) to an extension, or if they aren't interested in extending Jackson.  From the Yankees' side, they like Gardner enough that they probably wouldn't move him for a very similar player, albeit a younger one.

Here are some more items from all five AL Central franchises…

  • The Twins have increased the value of their two-year offer to Mike Pelfrey from $10MM to $12MM, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.  The Rangers and Giants have also shown interest in Pelfrey, Neal reports.
  • Also from Neal, the stumbling block between Matt Garza and the Twins seems to be Garza's demands for a four- or five-year contract, as Minnesota isn't willing to make that long a commitment due to injury concerns.  That said, Neal isn't counting the Twins out of the Garza race yet as he hears the team is still in the hunt (Twitter links).  You can read more about the Twins' hunt for pitching here.
  • The Royals could continue to shop Billy Butler since "Before too long, the DH spot has to be a rotating position for us. It really does," a club official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  For one, the Royals may use Salvador Perez at DH to keep his bat in the lineup when he isn't catching, plus added DH days would help keep Perez healthy.  Even if Butler isn't dealt this offseason, Dutton doesn't believe the Royals will sign him to an extension once his current deal is up.  It was reported earlier today that Butler's name had come up in trade talks with the Blue Jays.
  • The Royals, Indians and Rangers are among the teams interested in Shaun Marcum, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets.  Marcum underwent surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome in July and his agent updated MLBTR's Tim Dierkes on the recovery process last month.
  • The White Sox are looking to cut their payroll from just under $119MM in 2013 to between $89MM-$99MM range for 2014, ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla writes, with the $99MM figure being the likelier of the two.  Despite the cuts on the Major League side, GM Rick Hahn said the club will reinvest the saved money into extra spending on the draft and international signings.
  • In other AL Central news from earlier today, the Tigers reached an agreement with Joba Chamberlain and the Indians were battling with the Padres over Joaquin Benoit.

Poll: Who Will Sign An Extension This May?

Let's start the weekend up with a poll. As MLBTR's Steve Adams noted recently, two young stars (Adam Jones and Miguel Montero) signed significant extensions during May of 2012. While there have not been significant rumblings about any similar deals recently, the Jones and Montero deals both sprung up with relatively little advance buzz: Jones said he was not aware of any talks with the Orioles just a month before his six-year, $85.5MM deal was inked. And the build up to Montero's five-year, $60MM extension consisted largely of the Diamondbacks' acknowledgement that the team was open to in-season negotiations.

Jones had one year of arbitration eligibility remaining when he signed, while Montero would have become a free agent at the end of the year. Both were relatively young (26 and 28, respectively) and fairly well established as above-average players at premium defensive positions. And each had been with their teams for all or virtually all of their big league careers.

With those deals in mind, let's take a look at some generally comparable position players who could be positioned for similar deals. We will not include Robinson Cano, as he is at a different level of performance and contract extension, along with being somewhat older. Anyhow, we already asked MLBTR readers what they think about the likelihood of a Cano extension. Likewise, we'll leave out Chase Headley, given his recent comments. (Also, MLBTR readers just weighed in on a possible Headley extension, with the majority believing a trade was more likely than an extension.) 

The Nationals' Ian Desmond, 27, has continued to build off of his emergence last year. He sports a .296/.311/.530 line, although he has also registered seven early errors. The shortstop has spent his entire career in the former-Expos organization, and is poised to hit the open market in 2016. We know the Nats are open to negotiating an extension with Desmond, and the Elvis Andrus signing provides a relevant (albeit imperfect) point of reference

Orioles' catcher Matt Wieters is another obvious candidate. He will turn 27 later this month, and is looking at free agency in 2016. Ongoing negotiations between Wieters and the O's are seemingly at a simmer, but could pick up at any time. While Wieters is off to a bit of a slow start, slashing just .224/.297/.388 to date, he also probably had less to prove this season than Desmond.

Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox, 29, is similarly situated to Montero. He has played his entire career in Boston, but is set to become a free agent after the season. While the center fielder has not returned to his MVP-level 2011 season, when he exploded for 32 home runs, he has bounced back from his injury-shortened 2012. Thus far, his batting line (.286/.338/.405) and league-leading steal totals (11) are right in line with his strong 2008-2009 seasons. While both player and team appear interested in discussing an extension, Ellsbury's representation by Scott Boras — and the possibility that he could significantly raise his value with an injury-free 2013 — could make a deal unlikely.

Jason Heyward of the Braves is two years from free agency at just 23 years old, but as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes notes, the cost-conscious Braves could look to extend him. Heyward is currently on the DL after undergoing an appendectomy, and has had a poor start to the year. Nevertheless, he has established himself as few big leaguers have at his age. 

Austin Jackson, the Tigers' center fielder, is a young 26 and still two years from free agency. He is also a client of Scott Boras. But his strong early track record could make him a target for Detroit to try and lock up early. With so many big-money free agent deals on the books, it could make sense for the Tigers to try and save on Jackson by guaranteeing him money in advance. Jackson is off to another good start, putting up a .293/.356/.407 line to go with five steals.