It has been just under two years since I began writing for Mets360.com, and it has been an incredibly educational and pleasurable time spent with you all. As I need to take some time away for a while, I am left wondering if I can leave something for you. Clearly my signing of Yoenis Cespedes in our GM Project was a move worth reconsidering, but thankfully that was with play money so no harm, no foul. I’d rather leave you with a thought I’ve been trying to impart for these past couple of years, that sometimes it’s best to take the road less traveled.
Case in point, what if the Mets signed Austin Jackson? Yes, the same Jackson who had an OBP of .311 and hit nine home runs all of last year. As actual GM Sandy Alderson has stated a few times already in this brief off-season, the Mets are not looking to sign any lengthy, high-value contracts going into 2016. There’s no real point, as the position players on the market don’t match up incredibly favorably for the Mets’ needs, and they will have to save their pennies when it comes time to sign their young rotation long-term. That’s where Jackson comes in.
Jackson has been traded twice in the last two years, but before that he put up regularly solid numbers for the Detroit Tigers. From 2010 to 2013, he put up a fWAR as high as 5.4, and as low as 2.4. Since then he’s struggled to be a consistent offensive weapon. But is that really his fault? After putting up good numbers for four and a half years in Detroit, he was summarily discharged in a trade to Seattle, where his offense plays even less productively. His numbers in 54 games of 2014 were not good. He batted .229/.267/.260 and zero home runs. Trades often throw guys off their game, and that may have happened with Jackson last year. The biggest positive of him going to Seattle was that he had 11 stolen bases, just one less than he had in the entire 2012 season. But it wasn’t enough to make an otherwise ugly season look any better.
To start 2015, Jackson seemed to be more comfortable playing for the Mariners. Before again being traded mid-season, Jackson was hitting .272/.312/.387 with eight home runs, 18 doubles and 15 stolen bags. Still not tremendous, but he was playing better. Sending him off to the Chicago Cubs once again threw him into a tailspin, especially since his playing time was reduced after the move. Even with another sub-par season under his belt, Jackson still put up a batting line of .267/.311/.385. Compare that with Juan Lagares‘ 2015 batting line of .259/.289/.358, and it’s easy to see how Jackson could be an upgrade, even if just a slight one.
Now I’m not saying that Jackson will return to 2012 form when he hit .300/.377/.479 and launched 16 homers out of spacious Comerica Park. Nor am I saying that Lagares is a lost cause. But Jackson at least deserves to play on one team for an entire year in 2016, to see what he is still capable of doing. The Mets could do a lot worse than signing him to a one-year deal, too. MLBTradeRumors.com predicts the Mets to sign Dexter Fowler for $60 million over four years, whereas Jackson is only getting one-year $12 million deal to restore some value for 2017. That’s just a prediction of course, but it’s a mindful one. Oh, and Jackson is a year younger than Fowler. Not huge, but worth mentioning.
So not only would the Mets be giving Fowler $15 million for the next four years, but it would also seriously mitigate any remaining value for Lagares, who is still owed $23 million for the next five years. As Jackson probably doesn’t have a ton of interest yet, perhaps the Mets could scoop him up for even less dollars, and possibly nab a bargain in the process. If Lagares’ stock begins to rise drastically, Jackson can either become a part-time asset, or unfortunately once again be traded.
Jackson still has good defensive tools, so he’s not a huge drop off from Lagares’ defense. In reality, he could even be an upgrade. Admittedly, Lagares was not his Gold Glove self in 2015, but the numbers are pretty apparent. Lagares’ UZR/150 was 4.1 this past season, Jackson’s was 10.1, fifth-best among center fielders. Jackson also fared better in Fangraphs.com overall Defensive score over Lagares, 9.1 to 5.2 respectively. With Lagares still a major question mark in center, it couldn’t hurt to have an option that solid without having to guarantee another long-term contract.
Maybe none of this will work out. There are still probably other, better options than Jackson. But he’s a good, inexpensive option at the very least. It doesn’t seem unrealistic for him to return to offensive production while still putting up great defense, even if he is prone to striking out a lot. That’s nothing new for the Mets. And since money continues to be an object paramount to nearly every Mets decision, he’s not nearly so much of a risk as other plays.
So that is what I leave you with. It’s not splashy. It’s not headline grabbing. It’s practical. The Mets made it all the way to the World Series by doing basically one lavish trade on top of smaller, more practical ones. That’s on top of being practical for years, waiting for the farm to provide enough assets to trade or play. Now is not the time for the lavishness to steer the ship. The Mets are in good shape to at least make the postseason again in 2016 on the strength of their superb starting pitching, and some talented young position players coming through the system. Jackson likely wouldn’t be the sole reason they return, but he won’t weigh the team down for years either.
I only understand these intricacies since I’ve started writing for this great site. Advanced statistics, the prospects, money matters, I’ve learned much about all of it from the other writers and from you the readers. Without that, I wouldn’t be the same fan I am now. So thank you for being a part of that.
I predict this isn’t “so long” so much as “see you soon”. But as our Mets360.com 2015 Projection Review goes to show, I’m not great at predicting. Take care, and Lets Go Mets!