The Cleveland Indians have agreed to a minor-league deal with outfielder Austin Jackson worth $1.5 million and as much as $5.5 million with incentives according to Jon Heyman. Also according to Heyman, the contract includes an opt-out clause at the end of spring training, presumably in case the 29-year-old does not make the major-league roster.
Jackson is coming off of knee surgery that shortened his one-year deal with the Chicago White Sox last season. Prior to the injury, Jackson was slashing .254/.318/.343 with no home runs through June. Although his power clearly looked sapped in the early goings of the season, he did sport a career-best 19.2 percent strikeout rate and an 8.4 walk rate — one of the best of his careeer.
The Indians were rumored to pursuing Jackson last season before ultimately settling on Rajai Davis; Jackson went on to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the division-rival White Sox. This year, he will join an outfield already crowed with pretty-good-but-not-great batters and could form another platoon in center field with Tyler Naquin. Though, despite being a right-handed batter, Jackson has never hit particularly well against lefties. His career wRC+ against lefties sits at 98, while his wRC+ against right-handed pitchers is 102.
We will see more when spring training rolls around, but Jackson could end up being a slightly better version of Abraham Almonte in center field, or perhaps a part-time left-fielder if Michael Brantley is not ready on Opening Day.