Austin Jackson chose White Sox for opportunity to play center field
When Austin Jackson put pen to paper last week, the headline on the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer read, “Austin Jackson signs with an AL Central team in need of outfield help.” The Indians were a natural fit for Jackson, even before Abraham Almonte was slapped with an 80-game suspension. Almonte’s half-season ban seemed likely to add urgency to their pursuit of the former Tigers outfielder, perhaps enough for general manager Mike Chernoff to overcome his budgetary constraints.
Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. The AL Central team that now employs Jackson is not the Tribe but the White Sox, who inked him to a one-year, $5 million contract. And the runner-up in the race to sign the 29-year-old wasn’t Cleveland, but Anaheim, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Jackson saw his True Average slide to .255 in 448 plate appearances with the Mariners last year, then tick down to .247 in 79 trips with the Cubs, an offensive regression that cooled his market this winter. But the Texan was a 1.5-win player over 136 games, compensating for mediocre performance at the plate by standing out in the field, and that sort of production ought to cost more than $5 million in guaranteed money to obtain.
As it turns out, it might have—if Jackson weren’t so picky about where on the field he’d play. The Angels wanted him as their left fielder, to provide an upgrade over the bargain-bin options first-year GM Billy Eppler has provided for Mike Scioscia. Daniel Nava projects as the starter there, or at least the long-end platooner, with Craig Gentry as the primary backup. It’s not hard to see how Jackson could help. Trouble is, he was hellbent on playing center, where Mike Trout is about as entrenched as any regular in the league. And, per Heyman’s tweet, despite the Angels’ best efforts, Jackson wasn’t inclined to go for the green.
So, now he’s with the White Sox, aiming to displace Adam Eaton to right field and Avisail Garcia to Robin Ventura’s bench. That’s what our own Bryan Grosnick predicted would happen in the Transaction Analysis post published Monday. Barring an unforeseen wrinkle, this appears to be an excellent marriage of want and need for Jackson and the White Sox—and not-so-good news for the still-needy Halos and Tribe.
Cubs, Jake Arrieta briefly talked extension
Earlier this offseason, the Cubs approached Jake Arrieta about an extension. According to Heyman, the defending NL Cy Young Award winner was all ears—under one condition. Arrieta reportedly wanted a seven-year commitment from the Cubs, similar to the outlays given to other upper-echelon starter such as Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and David Price. To that, the Cubs said “no, thanks.”
And so, at least for now, talks between the sides are off. There’s no rush from the team’s standpoint, since Arrieta is under team control through 2017, and Cubs fans can rest assured that the folks upstairs aren’t through trying to keep their ace in Wrigleyville long term, even if their preference was something in the four- or five-year range.
At age 30, agreeing to a shorter-term contract carries both significant risks and positives for Arrieta, who’s riding a nearly-two-year stretch as one of the league’s least-hittable starters. On the one hand, Arrieta might be hard-pressed to pitch this well going forward, not because of any knock on his otherworldly arsenal, but because so few pitchers do. On the other, he registered a 67 cFIP last year, so maybe he can. By betting on himself now, Arrieta will hope to earn a lucrative extension that carries him virtually through the end of his career, as opposed to a four- or five-year deal that could leave him in mid-30s flux from a career earnings perspective.
As a late-bloomer who developed into one of the league’s best pitchers, it’s hard to blame Arrieta for wanting to capitalize on his one chance to cash in—and equally hard to blame the Cubs for being just a bit skittish about paying him until or through his age-37 season. There remains a decent chance the sides will eventually work out a mutually agreeable deal before Arrieta hits free agency two offseasons from now. The timing this offseason just wasn’t quite right.
Padres courting Tim Lincecum, says Tim Lincecum’s agent
As we count down the days toward Opening Day, Tim Lincecum is counting down the days until he attempts to prove himself healthy and capable of being an effective major-league pitcher again in a showcase for interested teams. That workout is anticipated to be held within the next two weeks, per Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who also told reporters Monday that he’s been in regular contact with the Padres.
The 31-year-old Lincecum has spent the offseason rehabbing from hip surgery and working with his father in Phoenix, hoping to rediscover the mechanics that catapulted him to stardom. While a return to those heights is remote, there’s some cause for optimism about the right-hander rebounding in a back-end-starter or swingman role. Thurman suggested that Lincecum, a Washington native who hasn’t lived outside the West Coast, would prefer to stay near the Pacific Ocean. That, coupled with the generous dimensions of Petco Park, could make San Diego an attractive pillow destination as Lincecum aims to rebuild his reputation.
Thurman isn’t currently fielding offers, so a deal probably won’t come together until mid- or late-March, when teams have a completed a more thorough evaluation of the pitcher they’re bidding on. The Giants have not fully closed the door on retaining Lincecum, and questions about the health of Matt Cain could clear a spot in the rotation, but Brian Sabean recently called it a “long shot.” As showcase day approaches, Lincecum appears much more likely to pitch for the NL West-rival Padres in 2016.
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