Austin Jackson – 29 years old
2016: Chicago White Sox
Austin Jackson has had quite the ride through his still-young career.
In the middle of a few seasons spent as a top-100 MLB prospect for the New York Yankees, Jackson was included in the three-way blockbuster that landed Max Scherzer with the Detroit Tigers. In 2014 Jackson was part of another three-team deal, landing in Seattle as part of the trade that sent David Price to Detroit.
Jackson is coming off a difficult 2016 season that was cut short by a right knee surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear. In the 54 games he did manage to appear in under his one-year, $5 million contract, Jackson posted below average numbers and was valued at -0.1 WAR.
This was a far cry from his mid-20s which were highlighted by his 2012 season. That year, Jackson broke out with a slash line of .300 / .377 / .479 including 16 home runs and 66 RBI. He was also playing much stronger defence at that time, leaving him with an excellent 5.4 WAR.
Jackson is a career centre-fielder but did play 22 games in right for the Chicago Cubs in 2015. He broke into the league as a very good defender, became more of a league-average defender from 2013 to 2015, and regressed further in his abbreviated 2016. Will this trend continue, or can a healthy Jackson regain some of his old form?
As is the case for all of the outfielders discussed here, it is not a daunting task to improve upon Toronto’s 2016 defence in the corner outfields.
While Jackson does not offer the Blue Jays a left-handed bat, he does come with relatively even platoon splits and a career .332 on-base percentage. His athleticism has made him a plus-value base runner, too, even when his stolen base percentage has bottomed out over the past two seasons.
Perhaps even more than other outfielders mentioned, Jackson would likely be interested in taking an affordable one-year deal focused on playing time opportunities to rebuild his value.