Could Tigers Bring Back Austin Jackson?

By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

The Tigers are looking for a center fielder. Austin Jackson’s looking for a home. Could the two parties reunite?

MLB.com’s Jason Beck suggests it’s a possibility.

“The set-up’s there,” Beck said in an interview with the website. “(The Tigers) need at least a stopgap center fielder until their prospects are ready, Jackson needs a place for a career rebound after losing most of last season to a torn meniscus.

“As of late last week there was nothing serious going on, but as we know in baseball things can change as you get to this point in January and Spring Training gets closer.”

Jackson was the Tigers’ everyday center fielder from 2010 to 2014 until being shipped to Seattle at the 2014 trade deadline as part of the deal that brought David Price to Detroit. He’s bounced around the league since, spending time with the Mariners, Cubs and White Sox.

His best years, by far, came with the Tigers. He averaged 4.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in his four full seasons in Detroit, peaking in 2012 with a mark of 5.4. He hasn’t had a WAR higher than 1.4 since.

Last year with the White Sox, he hit .254 with a .661 OPS before a torn left meniscus ended his season in early June. He finished with a WAR of -0.1.

The Tigers have an opening in center field after trading Cameron Maybin to the Angels (and smartly so) in November. It figured to be the first of many cost-cutting measures for the overstretched organization, but the rest of the dominos never fell.

As such, Detroit will enter the 2017 season with largely the same roster and intentions to compete in the A.L. Central. But they’ll need to find someone to man center field to stay in the race, at least until prospect JaCoby Jones looks ready to take over on an everyday basis.

Jones appeared in 13 games for the Tigers toward the end of the last season, going 6/28 (.214) with three doubles and three runs scored. His 12 strikeouts underscored his most glaring issue at the plate.

Jackson made $5 million with the White Sox last season. After his underwhelming, injury-shortened campaign, it’s likely he could be had for even less this year.

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