The news has already been making the rounds on Twitter, but the Cubs have agreed to acquire outfielder Austin Jackson from the Mariners for their last international draft slot and a player to be named later or cash considerations. The draft slot is worth about about $211,000 and Jackson is only owed about $1 million in salary for the remainder of the 2015 season, after which he becomes a free agent.
Jackson was a promising Yankees prospect before being traded to Detroit for Curtis Granderson in December 2009. He started for four years in the Motor City, but battled inconsistent play and injuries before being traded to Seattle as part of the three-team deal highlighted by David Price. Jackson struggled mightily to adjust to his new environs and hit just .229/.267/.260 with no home runs and a wRC+ of 52 with the Mariners in August and September. He did, however, swipe 11 bases.
He appeared to be rounding back into form as the 2015 season got underway, batting .252/.295/.355 with an 82 wRC+ in the first half. Since the break, however, Jackson has found a new — or perhaps old — gear, posting a .311/.339/.435 slash line with a wRC+ of 118. So he went from being 18 worse than average to 18 percent better, which is at least 43 percent better than either of the guys currently serving as right-handed bench bats in the Cubs’ outfield.
Matt Szczur has had one foot in Des Moines and the other in Chicago all season, but even given the chance to unpack his bags for more than a week, he doesn’t look like much more than the stereotypical AAAA player. While the glove plays, the bat just doesn’t have what it takes to be an everyday player. And Chris Denorfia has been a nice platoon option with Chris Coghlan, but is a replacement-level player at best at this point in his career.
With Jorge Soler presumably out for the rest of the regular season, A-Jax cleans up what was looking like a relatively murky outfield situation. He can play right when Kyle Schwarber is in the other corner and then can take over left against southpaws. Jackson can also spell Dexter Fowler in center to keep the dinged-up regular healthy as the season winds down. This is another typical low-risk, high-reward move by the Cubs’ front office, and one that could work on many levels.
If there is a dark cloud to this deal, it’s that the Cubs had to designate Mike Olt for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster. They will now have 10 days to either trade, release, or waive Olt. I suppose it’s possible he could clear waivers, but I highly doubt that’ll happen. Surely someone’s going to be willing to take a flyer on a guy will power to spare, so my hope is that the Cubs can end up getting something in return for him.
Sorry, Mike, but we’ll always have the Thirsty Lion.
If I can close with a silver lining, though, it’s that the Cubs are no longer in the wait-and-see business. There’s no time to sit around and wait on unfulfilled potential because winning doesn’t really matter. Olt was an unfortunate victim of injuries and timing, but his loss comes from the acquisition of a player who could very well aid the Cubs’ playoff run. The future is no longer two or three years from now, and this pair of moves proves that again.