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Giants sign Austin Jackson to two-year deal

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The Giants have their center fielder, and they’ll stay under the luxury tax threshold.

Seattle Mariners v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Giants have signed center fielder Austin Jackson to a two-year deal worth $6 million, according to Jon Heyman. Performance bonuses can take the deal up to $8.5 million, which would still keep the Giants close to the luxury tax threshold.

It would appear as if the offseason is over. Here are your 2018 Giants.

Considering that this site ran an article titled “Austin Jackson is the perfect fit for the 2018 Giants,” there isn’t a lot of mystery about how I feel about this move. I’m fer it. All of my bullet points still apply:

  • right-handed
  • solid defense
  • a touch of power
  • coming off a very strong season
  • much cheaper than Lorenzo Cain
  • probably even a little cheaper than Jarrod Dyson
  • a free agent who won’t cost prospects or draft picks
  • would allow the Giants to bring Steven Duggar along at their preferred pace
  • won’t be on a contract that would prevent him from sliding into a fourth-outfielder role if Duggar is ready soon

People have quibbled with my description of his defense as “solid,” but I’ll stand by it. His defense was below-average in 2016 and 2017 according to UZR, but it was solidly above average in 2015. If you’re more into DRS, he’s been just a touch below average in every season since 2013, but his numbers certainly weren’t alarming. If you’re an Inside Edge fan, you would find that he can still make the occasional spectacular play, but he is a little more hit-or-miss with the kinda tough plays than you might want from your center fielder.

More simply: If he’s not average, he’s pretty close. Considering that the Giants had the worst center field defense in the league last year, it’s a huge upgrade.

What’s more exciting is Jackson’s offensive abilities, as he hit .318/.387/.482 last season, with seven home runs and 19 doubles in 318 plate appearances. The average was boosted with a high average on balls put in play, so I wouldn’t expect a .300 hitter again, but his career numbers of .275/.336/.403 aren’t dreadful. Marcel projections give him a .759 OPS (not park-adjusted) next year, which would mean the Giants wouldn’t have to consider him a liability in the lineup. ZiPS is less bullish, putting him at .264/.322/.390, but that would still make him worth roughly a win above replacement.

Perhaps the most important part is that Jackson isn’t on the kind of contract that would prevent the Giants from making a change if Steven Duggar forces his way into the lineup. And, considering the Giants’ outfield is all right-handed now, there’s a chance that Duggar makes the Opening Day roster as a super-fourth outfielder.

Now we get to do the final lineup-speculation thingie.

Austin Jackson - CF
Brandon Belt - 1B
Andrew McCutchen - RF
Buster Posey - C
Evan Longoria - 3B
Brandon Crawford - SS
Hunter Pence - RF
Joe Panik - 2B

That’s not how I would do it, mind you. I’m just trying to get into the head of Bruce Bochy. There’s a sectional couch the size of an F150 and a popcorn machine in there. It’s nice! And I’m guessing that Jackson gets the leadoff gig because he’s kind of fast and had a career-best walk rate last year. Not sure if the Giants would really want three right-handers in the middle of the order, but it’s not like any of the three have struggled mightily against right-handed pitching in their careers.

Regardless, the Giants are better at the three positions they filled this offseason. They hope to be better at the other five. Will it work? Dunno, but I’m a fan of the collective moves, given what they had to work with. Getting Jackson while staying under the luxury tax was probably a better use of their resources than making one last prospects-for-veteran trade.

This could have been the lineup, after all:

Billy Hamilton - CF
Joe Panik - 2B
Buster Posey - C
Jay Bruce - RF
Eduardo Nunez - 3B
Brandon Belt - 1B
Hunter Pence - LF
Brandon Crawford - SS

There are a lot of outs in that lineup, and it would have pushed the Giants past the luxury tax threshold, which would have affected their ability to sign international players next year.

When you put it like that, this offseason has been an exercise in avoiding trap doors, at least for the 2018 roster. It didn’t have to be like that, you know.