4:31pm: The deal has been announced by Cleveland.
2:31pm: Jackson and the Indians are in agreement on a minor league deal that comes with a $1.5MM base salary, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (Twitter link). He can earn up to $4MM worth of incentives in addition to that base, and Heyman also tweets that Jackson has an opt-out clause in his deal that comes at the end of Spring Training.
2:17pm: The Indians and free-agent outfielder Austin Jackson are closing in on an agreement, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). Cleveland has been seeking a right-handed complement for Tyler Naquin in center field, and Jackson could fill that role at what’s likely to be an affordable rate. Jackson, who turns 30 next month, is represented by Octagon.
[Related: Updated Cleveland Indians Depth Chart]
Jackson spent the 2016 season with the White Sox after signing a one-year, $5MM deal in free agency last February, but he struggled at the plate for two months before ultimately suffering a knee injury that ended his season. In 203 plate appearances with the South Siders, Jackson hit .254/.318/.343 with 12 doubles, two triples and no home runs.
Back in 2010, Jackson finished runner-up to Neftali Feliz in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and through the first four seasons of his career the former top prospect looked to be a star on the rise. Jackson batted .278/.344/.416 while playing exceptional center field defense and providing strong value on the basepaths as well. However, a 2014 trade to the Mariners marked the beginning of a rapid offensive decline for Jackson, who has produced a rather dismal .255/.302/.345 batting line in 966 plate appearances since first leaving Detroit.
From a defensive standpoint, Jackson’s skills have become more questionable as well. Both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved felt his work in center was roughly average, in the aggregate, from 2014-15. But both metrics soured on his glove in 2016, agreeing that he cost the White Sox about five runs in just 465 innings as a center fielder. With a notable knee surgery now in his recent history as well, it’s certainly fair to wonder if Jackson’s days as even an average center fielder are behind him, although the Indians aren’t taking on much financial risk in order to find out.
And, in a platoon setting, Jackson could still prove productive at the plate. Despite the lackluster nature of his overall batting line since that trade to Seattle, he’s handled lefties at a .287/.329/.452 clip since first being shipped out of Detroit. That output, paired with even passable glovework, would make him a valuable role player in Cleveland this season.
Love, love, love this.
You might be a little over excited. I didn’t pay attention to him last year but while he was with the Mariners he was absolutely terrible. He couldn’t play defense and he couldn’t hit and his base running was horrendous. But maybe he got better.
He didn’t. Not a bad bench bat/platoon CFer but definitely nothing game changing here.
That’s fair, but anything is an improvement over Abraham Almonte messing up bunts… even with PEDs the guy was still horrendous. I’m not expecting A-Jax to be lifesaving. I am expecting him to beat out Almonte. And that makes me happy.
Well if he’s replacing honest Abe(the nickname I made up when I thought he was the next superstar in Seattle) you should definitely be happy.
Almonte is the best CF on the team. His play was missed during the playoffs
Almonte’s PED-Fueled best season was on par with Jackson’s averages from 2014-2016… I’ll take Ajax.
No, he will not get better. Great guy but his speed is what kept in the big leagues and no that his speed is gone, who needs a .240 hitter with no power. Retirement is imminent. Probably his last gasp chance.
Why would you love it? His skills have diminished and he has zero power. He’s done!
Because watching the Indians trot Almonte out every 3rd game hurt my soul.
If you’re looking for passable offense and passable defense, you got it.
Not a bad get at all.
From a Sox fan who cringed watching him last year, please do not get your hopes up. Jackson, like many others on our lineup, was weak. Defense has suffered tremendously, and his bat is all but gone. At best, he’s a fourth outfielder, playing sparingly against lefties. Anything over $2MM is a joke.
What happened to him? He is barely even 30 and he is washed up?
He lost his speed which basically ruined his entire game.
Now, why can’t the Orioles do the same with Franklin Gutiérrez?
I would rather have Ajax, at least he potentially has another year or two of good baseball left whereas Guti seems completely done. At 33 you think Guti can bounce back and handle even the fourth outfielder role? It seems like if the Os were interested it would already be done, I can’t imagine he’s worth more than a minor league deal
Guti is basically just a DH at this point becuse he was horrendous in right field this year. But he was still a good hitter so maybe he will get a shot as a platoon DH somewhere but idk where that is.
Good, solid insurance and possible platoon in CF and depth in corners. Minor league deal so not much invested if it turns out he is washed up. Jackson gets a chance to prove he has something left.
Seems like a perfect low risk move. He is not that far removed from a pretty sizeable period of success. A new environment with renewed good health on a team with high hopes seems like the perfect fit for both sides. I think he will do pretty well. I’m not a Cleveland fan but I am a huge Brantley fan so really I hope Brant is healthy and then AJax probably doesn’t play much anyway. As an Os fan I wouldn’t of minded AJax getting a shot at the fourth outfielder job.
I’ve been hoping they’d dump Almonte and any other PED user, but this Punch
Punch and Judy hitter isn’t the answer.
Some of you need to chill. It’s only a minor league deal. They’re not bringing him in to start.
Just a chance to show if he’s a viable option or not.
Austin is going to be better then he has ever been and I will tell you why.. He is the kind of offensive Player that needs a threat in front of him and behind him and Francona will do that .. Because Cleveland has the Threats to put in the line up that the White Sox and Mariners did not have when he was there .. He flourished in Detroit because they had the threats .. There is Players That need threats and he is one of them.. It happens every year, these teams that have multiple threats sign these so called washed up players and then those players flourish and every body acts surprised.. I have been living breathing Baseball for 38yrs and there is one every year and every year people act surprised.. Austin has a real shot to be that player this year!!
Said with the word threats like 8 times too many but I do agree . At first I thought he had some weapons around him in Seattle but then looking at the 2014 roster at least, not so much.
Maybe you are right I was excited when Seattle got him then it just kept getting worse. I kept thinking every spring he was going to turn it around but he didn’t. Maybe he needs that push.
GoRav there is not a bigger Guti fan out there. My wife has multiple auto immune diseases and I know the fight he is going through just to play. I fought and argued with fans about Guti that called him soft for getting injured and compared it to cancer because his body is fighting itself. Many people have no clue. Anyway I just don’t see him being able to contribute much anymore. I would love Seattle to bring him back but that won’t happen as a player. They should as a coach though. His body can’t take the grind and produce. He was a shell about half way through last year. I think they kept him a lot because of his clubhouse presence and the little he could contribute. Hate to say it but he is done.
It sucks cause he’s a grinder but these conditions just don’t stand up to the rigors of a long season
He was moved out of Detroit because he had regressed, even with those weapons around him. He was never polished offensively, but he had tools when he came up, with his speed and defense. I’ve seen players who never developed their tools, but Jackson is the first one I’ve seen lose his.
I don’t like your threatening tone.
Tito: Hey Austin, get a hit or I’ll kick your ass.
Austin Jackson: *Hits a stand-up double.*
Austin Jackson, the kind of offensive player that needs a threat.
Geez what happened to AJax? He was supposed to be a pretty decent outfielder.
Anybody know where Jordan Smith fits in The organization
He had some fan supporters a couple years ago, but has lost some shine since then.. He is down in the pecking order behind Yandy Diaz, Zimmer, and Allen. Should start the year in AAA though. He might have a shot to get at least a cup of coffee.
I honestly don’t think he got a fair shake with the White Sox because of the injury. He had some awful luck with batted balls; he missed several home runs by a matter of inches. Not sure he’s a good play in center anymore though.
Nice little pickup. C-town is looking good to repeat.
His name and history might keep him on the roster for a time, but he won’t be on the roster in September.
Just a depth signing, nothing to really see here. Almonte will most likely make the team as a platoon OFer with Naquin. Jackson is just an insurance policy on Almonte.