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Austin Jackson had a 69 OPS+

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Not every free agent signing works out, but ooh doggy, did this one really expose some bigger issues.

San Fransicsco Giants v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

STAT LINE .242 / .309 /.295 (in 165 PA with the Giants), 0 HR, 13 RBI, 14 BB, 59 K

If you stop and thinking about all the transactions the Giants made in the aftermath of their disastrous 2017 season, you’ll find yourself wondering about trading for Evan Longoria before remembering they signed Austin Jackson to a 2-year, $6 million deal. If you watched Austin Jackson play baseball for the San Francisco Giants in 2018, then you know it was worse than the Longoria trade. It was a move that did not work out in any way.

Here were all the reasons why signing Austin Jackson made sense to Grant Brisbee, who was the managing editor of this site at the time:

* 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

Let’s revisit this list and see how it held up:

* Yes, he did remain right-handed
* -8.9 Defensive Runs saved on FanGraphs
* slugged .295 (career average: .396)
* Yes, can’t change the past
* Five times’ cheaper, in fact
* $750,000 less than Dyson’s deal, in fact — great call
* True at the time of signing, not true later on...
* Yes, for better or worse
* True, but look at the team’s outfield depth heading into 2019:

The Giants signed him to a two-year deal. What the hell happened?

Role on the 2018 team

Austin Jackson was supposed to be the bridge to Steven Duggar, but instead he was the 4th-worst player by fWAR (-1.0) in Major League Baseball (min. 350 PA), behind Chris Davis, Victor Martinez, and Yangervis Solarte.

Wins Above Replacement factors in defense, and while FanGraphs didn’t like him, Statcast rated him at merely a -2 Outs Above Average, 58th-best in baseball. By comparison, Andrew McCutchen had a -11. Granted, McCutchen had 37 more out opportunities, but Jackson wasn’t quite a disaster in every defensive category. Still, he was not a net positive.

As the Giants’ competitive window and financial situation started to take shape, the team decided it was worth unloading the remainder of Jackson’s 2018 salary by any means necessary. They found a willing taker in the Texas Rangers, mainly because the Rangers were able to net two more players in the transaction: glacially-paced reliever Cory Gearrin and interesting prospect Jason Bahr.

The move got Steven Duggar and Ray Black into the major leagues, and for that reason alone it was a successful move. The Rangers wound up releasing Austin Jackson and it’s to his credit that after signing with the Mets he was able to salvage a bit of his terrible year, slashing .317 /.364 .433 (.798 OPS) with 2 home runs and 13 RBI in his first 33 games with the team. He’d fall back to Earth after that nice start (.141 / .173 / .218 in 81 September PAs), but showed he still had some game.

Two weeks before was traded, I wondered if his season could be salvaged, citing these four points:

  • His batted ball exit velocity of 88.2 mph matches his career average exactly.
  • His batting average on balls in play (BAbip) is .400.
  • Since May 17, when the Giants played the Rockies for the first time this season, he’s hit .282 / .333 / .359 in 42 plate appearances*.’
  • He’s switched leagues.

67 of the 78 pitchers he’d faced up to that point had been pitchers he’d seen for the first time. The Giants needed him to be the veteran presence who provided depth and hit the ground running. He just couldn’t do it.

Role on the 2019 team

He’s a free agent from the Mets now. It’s doubtful that the Giants would attempt to re-sign him, given how disastrously his stint was. He still seems to have a bit of plate discipline — he was ranked 14th in MLB (min. 250 PA) in pitches per plate appearance with 4.26, ahead of Andrew McCutchen (4.24). Of course, for all those pitches seen, his OBP was just .299.

Final Grade: F

Jackson never looked comfortable as a Giant and the Giants had to give up a lot just to move his contract. That’s a bad combination.