At long last, free-agent outfielder Austin Jackson has found a new home.
Jackson inked a one-year, $5 million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. The 29-year-old received a good deal of interest this offseason, although his market was significantly slowed by how long it took for other notable free-agent position players to sign their deals.
With Jackson now in tow, the White Sox will make a few changes to their defensive positioning. Jackson will primarily play center, GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including Scott Merkin of MLB.com. As a result, Adam Eaton will likely be shifted to right field, while Avisail Garcia will either fight for at-bats at designated hitter or assume a bench role with the team.
Another possibility could be Melky Cabrera losing his starting job in left field (with Eaton moving there), but his larger contract and relative success offensively last season might give him a better shot to hold on to his job than Garcia has.
Overall, the domino effect of position changes could be a good thing for Chicago. Eaton was among the worst center fielders in the game last year, in terms of defensive runs saved (-14), while Jackson was more in the middle of the pack (-1). Meanwhile, Garcia was a liability in right field with a -11 DRS (for what it's worth, Cabrera posted a -2 DRS in left).
Not to mention, Garcia also provided little production to the team at the plate. If the 24-year-old does start to serve as a platoon partner at DH with the left-handed-hitting Adam LaRoche, the White Sox should see improvement on offense as well. Garcia slashed .293/.353/.407 against left-handers in 2015, while LaRoche had a .157/.191/.191 line against southpaws last year.
Of course, another advantage to the Jackson signing is keeping him away from a division rival. The Cleveland Indians promised Jackson "a lot of playing time" if he signed with them but felt they would have had to pay more than $5 million to prevent him from signing in Chicago, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports in separate tweets.
Here are a few other rumors making their way around the league today:
Jay Bruce: The Baltimore Orioles are still considering making a run at the Cincinnati Reds outfielder, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. "There’s still a possibility Bruce winds up in Baltimore as the Orioles try to plug last-minute holes," Cafardo writes. "The Orioles don’t believe Mark Trumbo can play right field every day and really needs to be a full-time DH, so it behooves [them] to get a good all-around player to play right." Cafardo noted Jackson as another possibility the O's were considering, but, of course, that is no longer an option for them. That said, the chances of Bruce being dealt to Baltimore might have increased. We explored several other options the Orioles could consider in our Feb. 26 roundup.
Ryan Hanigan: Another name Cafardo mentions as a trade possibility this season is Hanigan. According to Cafardo, who cites an NL executive, a few teams see the veteran as a target due to the presence of Christian Vazquez as a potential backup to Blake Swihart. However, the Boston Red Sox appear reluctant to deal Hanigan because of the lack of experience Swihart and Vazquez have. Hanigan, 35, is slated to make $3.7 million this season and has an option for 2017.
Brett Cecil: One of the Toronto Blue Jays' many pending free agents this season, Cecil is open to an extension with the club, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. "I'm up for whatever," Cecil said. "There's not necessarily going to be demands on what it’s got to be. If they want to talk then we can talk. If not then we don't." Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are getting much more attention as they enter their contract year as well, but Cecil shouldn't be overlooked. The left-hander has had three strong seasons in the Blue Jays' pen and is still just 29 years old, meaning a big payday could be on the horizon.
Devin Mesoraco: The timetable for Mesoraco's return from left hip surgery last year has been delayed by a groin injury, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports. "I would say we've slowed things down a little bit. It's not anything alarming," Mesoraco said Saturday. "It's a little bit slower just to give me a little more time to do everything a little more. I would say within the next seven to 10 days, I will be out there." The 27-year-old earned MVP votes during his 2014 campaign but missed nearly all of last season due to injury. As one of the few bright spots on the rebuilding Reds, Mesoraco's health will be a key storyline to watch throughout the rest of Reds camp.
Dan Johnson: The Tampa Bay Rays' signing of Johnson to a minor league deal made plenty of headlines this weekend as the 36-year-old will try to make the team as a knuckleball pitcher. Johnson spoke about his decision with reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, on Saturday. "It's not the first time I've tried this out," he said, "but this is the first time I feel like I can take it seriously." Although he's a long shot to make the roster, Johnson will no doubt get every chance available to master the pitch this spring. As he's proven in the past with his dramatic home runs as a member of the Rays, he shouldn't be counted out easily.
Khris Davis: Traded to the Oakland Athletics by the Milwaukee Brewers last month, Davis tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he's happy with his new team. "I come to the ballpark with a smile on my face," the 28-year-old said. "It’s been a while since I felt like this." In the interview, Davis says he wasn't surprised to be dealt by Milwaukee, noting that all the other moves the team was making indicated a trade was possible. This is likely the same way catcher Jonathan Lucroy feels, although the team has been reluctant to deal him despite his public desire to play on a contender.