This was a curious thing to see come up right before first pitch:
#SFGiants and Red Sox are among teams considering Austin Jackson. SF would be interesting since they just traded him.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 22, 2018
This is the second time Heyman has reported this. We learned soon after the Giants dealt Jackson, Gearrin, and prospect Jason Bahr to the Rangers for cash considerations or a player to be named later, that the Rangers planned to cut Jackson. They really just made the move for Bahr.
That the Giants might wind up bringing back Jackson at the prorated league minimum, getting Texas to foot the remainder of his 2-year $6 million contract, smells a lot like what happened with Pablo Sandoval, but if it happens, will probably not have too many positive results.
Last month, I speculated that Jackson’s switch from the American League to the National League was a big part of why he’s struggled at the plate so much this season. I don’t see that turning around over the team’s final 40-50 games, or however many would be remaining once he returned to the roster. That’s the only benefit of all this: he’d get some playing time in the minor leagues to work on his swing. He really didn’t look right this year and his defense was unremarkable to bad.
So, then, that makes me wonder why the Giants would ever consider bringing him back. It’s possible that Heyman is totally wrong about this, but I give it some measure of truth if only because it’s not his opinion on something — he’s very likely repeating some industry whispers he’s heard.
Of course, we never get the whispers about just what the hell these teams are thinking, because whispering philosophy takes a long time and some words don’t translate well to the medium of the whisper, which would necessitate louder speech would defeat the entire purpose of spreading the information.
The only reason it makes sense for the Giants to bring back Austin Jackson is if they feel his skill set would be an upgrade over what they have or what they could potentially have. Remember, they’d have to give him a new spot on the 40-man roster, which means they might rather do that over “starting the clock” on an outfield prospect. They would rather have Austin Jackson with the organization and, presumably, on the major league roster, over Mac Williamson. They would be fine with a jumbled replacement-to-below-replacement level of roster talent comprised of Jackson, Gorkys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar, and Mac Williamson.
Whatever they liked about Jackson never showed up in his brief time with the team, but they might be interested in rolling the dice again — even if it means blocking other players who could provide the same value. It feels strange to use a roster spot on a bench bat when the Giants have plenty of those already. They need great hitters.
They have, potentially, two spots where they can upgrade (left field and center field), but no financial flexibility to go out and trade for a pair of 2-win players. Adding Jackson back into the mix just doesn’t make sense from a rational or even irrational perspective. Unless he’s a fantastic teammate they feel could be the metaphorical straw that stirs the drink. That might matter for a team that needs the extra 2% to make a postseason push, but the Giants need a lot more than 2%.
If the Giants genuinely believe they are close to making a run and just need a little push, then why trade Jackson in the first place? If they felt he was worth giving up at some point, then he obviously can’t have that much value to them now.
This rumor is a head-scratcher. It’s even hard to imagine a scenario where he comes back and becomes a 2-win player as the starting left fielder over the final 45 games. The Giants make a few surprising moves every year, but it will be difficult to accept the reasoning behind this one should it come to pass.