Mariners acquire Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson
Looking to upgrade their outfield and add some right-handed balance to their lineup, the Mariners accomplished both on Thursday with the acquisition of center fielder Austin Jackson as part of a three-way trade with the Tigers and Rays.
Jackson, 27, rejoins Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon, his former hitting coach with the Tigers, with the Mariners sending infielder Nick Franklin to the Rays as their part of a deal that sent ace pitcher David Price to Detroit.
Jackson is expected to join the Mariners on Friday when they open a three-game series in Baltimore. He’s hit .270 with 25 doubles, five triples, four home runs and 32 RBIs this season for Detroit, where he’s played the past five years. He is earning $4 million this season and will be arbitration eligible one more year in 2015 before becoming a free agent in 2016.
The Mariners also acquired veteran Chris Denorfia from the Padres in exchange for Minor Leaguers Abraham Almonte and Stephen Kohlscheen prior to Thursday’s Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, giving them a near-makeover in the outfield for the final two months.
McClendon said Denorfia will play mostly right field, while Jackson figures to take over for rookie James Jones in center field and will likely hit leadoff. Dustin Ackley will remain in left field.
Jackson is a big addition for a Mariners club looking to make a run at the American League’s second Wild Card spot and supplement a pitching staff with the best ERA in the league.
“Defensively he’s probably one of the top three center fielders in all of baseball,” McClendon said of Jackson. “He gets those kind of jumps and he’s played in the biggest center field in baseball in Detroit. And offensively, this guy is pretty accomplished. He had close to 200 hits a couple years, he scores close to 100 runs, he’s good at the top of the order, he steals bases and he knows what he’s doing. He’s a veteran hitter.”
Jackson is a career .277/.342/.413 hitter and was second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010. McClendon worked with Jackson the past four years with Detroit and knows the youngster well.
“There were some growing pains along the way,” McClendon said, “but this kid is pretty good and he’ll be great in that clubhouse. I know his new teammates will love him. … I think we’re probably getting him at the optimum time. He’s swinging the bat extremely well right now.”
Adding both Jackson and Denorfia helps balance a Mariners lineup that has played primarily with an all left-handed hitting infield and only Corey Hart as a right-handed option in the outfield. Hart figures to either play first base or DH now, while Jones and Chavez will lose time in the outfield.
“Obviously we’re getting more right-handed, which is something we’ve been hoping for for quite a while,” McClendon said. “Not only are we getting right-handers, but experienced right-handed hitters that are two-way players that know how to handle situations. This is definitely an upgrade for us.”
Franklin, 22, was a late first-round Draft pick for Seattle in 2009 out of high school in Orlando, Fla. He started 102 games as a rookie for the Mariners last year, hitting .225 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs while playing mostly second base.
But with the offseason signing of Robinson Cano, Franklin lost that job and then was beat out by Brad Miller in a Spring Training competition for shortstop. He played 17 games in two brief call-ups with Seattle this season, hitting .128 in 47 at-bats.