Monday, January 22, 2018

Your 2018 Giants: Austin Jackson, Starting CF

Per many sources (here's CBS), the Giants have signed Austin Jackson to a two-year deal at $6M (which adds AAV of $3M, leaving the Giants maybe $1-2M under the CBT Penalty Threshold of $197M), with escalators that could push to $8.5M.

ogc thoughts

Wow, they did it, they were able to stay under the CBT Penalty Threshold!  And improved themselves defensively in CF, though per advanced metrics, he's been slightly to a lot poorer in CF defense, though still probably better than Span.

Austin Jackson fits with the players that the Giants have been rostering for a number of years now:  he has basically hit LHP and RHP pretty equally during this career.  His offensive boost in 2017 was because of a high .419 BABIP vs. LHP, but he was about normal vs. RHP, so I feel pretty good that he'll be around his average .708 OPS over the past four seasons, if not above.  He looks like he'll be a 1 WAR player in strong part-time play.

But he's not the improvement in defense that was being touted in management discussions, though the spin there is that compared to Span, he's a huge improvement.  Still, his defense per Fangraphs was a ghastly -19.5 UZR/150, though that was in limited play there in 2017.  His DRS has been just slightly below average over recent years, suggesting that while his range has dropped significantly in recent seasons, his experience has been making up for that, resulting in an almost average DRS over the past few seasons.

Some are listing him as leadoff, but given how lucky he was last season, I'm not sure if that is going to happen, plus he hasn't even really stolen any bases in recent seasons.  I think Bochy will be varying who leads off for the first month until someone takes hold.

With this move, this means that 4 of 5 OF positions are set with Pence, Jackson, McCutchen, Gorkys Hernandez, and Parker, Williamson, Slater battling for the last OF bench role.  The caveat here is that Parker is out of options while the others still have an option.  Also, should Duggar wins the starting CF role (I view this as unlikely unlike Duggar has a monster spring), pushing Jackson to the 4th OF position, it would be Gorkys vs. Parker, and I can see Parker winning because of his bat and his ability to play the three positions (albeit not for a long while in CF).  And I can also see the Giants DFAing Gorkys instead of Parker, if push comes to shove.

Tea Leaves

I see this as a pretty good move overall.  It is not for not much money, in fact, leaves some space for a low risk/high reward veteran minimum signing before Spring Training for either SP or RP.  He provides a good bat from the bench or spot starting, plus OK average-ish defense in CF (appears above average in corner OF), and can hold the starting spot in case anyone goes on the DL for a little while without crippling the offense or defense.

More importantly, he's good enough to win the starting CF position and not be a drag on the lineup in the 8th position (which is what his batting line of .708 would be average-ish fits), as well as a great improvement defensively over Span last season, especially per DRS.  But he's not good enough that if Duggar breaks out in Spring Training, the Giants would have no problem moving Jackson to the bench to be a good bat/glove alternative there, plus be a nice insurance in case any starting OF need a day off or is on the DL or not performing well enough.

And if Duggar shows enough but not enough, they could decide to platoon the two of them in CF for a while, until Duggar figures it all out.  But Duggar has hit both LHP and RHP pretty equally well, so I don't see a platoon happening, as some worry, and even if they do platoon, I don't view that as a permanent thing, Bochy is pretty good about giving the player chances to prove himself at whatever it is he has been deemed to not be good at, so that he can see himself and evaluate.  In any case, I expect them to start Duggar where ever he ends up.

All in all, good free agent signing.  It gives us a placeholder starting CF that won't hurt the lineup against either handed throwers (little platoon gap).  He can slide over to the bench easily when Duggar is ready and be a good bat off the bench as well as good enough defense at all three OF positions.  He's basically taking on the Blanco role, except that he can hit LHP and RHP equally well, as well as play well defensively in the OF in all three positions, ready to take the starting role if necessary.

40 Man Squeeze

The Giants roster was already at 40 after they added Engelb Vielma, good defensive middle infielder, again a couple of days ago (someone noted on Twitter that the Giants had nobody ready to take SS if Crawford ever went down, so I guess he's the guy, he's well liked for his defense, not so much for his offense), so they will need to remove somebody before they can add Jackson.

They probably can delay the signing while they figure that out, perhaps via a trade.  Parker could be the odd man out in the OF with this move, but I would think, as I noted above, that they would retain him because he's good defensively in the OF and can provide good to great power off the bench.   If any OF goes, it would be Gorkys, but I don't see that happening because then it would be Parker and Williamson on the bench, no good CF defense to come in should Bochy needs to PH for Jackson, though I suppose McCutchen could slide over temporarily, but Bochy generally do not like doing that to his regulars.

But if not them, then who?  I would not think Jones, but he did so poorly in the majors that the Giants might decide to waive him in hopes that he slides through.   And Osich has not been that good for two seasons now, so he's probably more likely, given that along with his long injury history would make teams pass on adding him to their 40-man.  But I would not think these two are going.

Neither Chase nor Pierce Johnson are on the team's MLB Pipeline Top 30 Prospect list, nor Wrenzie's Top 30 list or DrB's Top 50 (Honorable Mentions), so perhaps they might go.  Pierce wasn't that great last season, his first where he mostly relieved, very wild with 27 walks in 54.1 IP, but 74 K's!   Plus 11 saves, so he has closer experience to boot.  Chase Johnson missed most of the 2017 season and didn't do well when he was in there, whereas the Giants just picked up Pierce, who was with the Cubs, late in the 2017 season, so I would think that the Giants would want to see what Johnson got before letting him go. 

Thus, Chase Johnson is the most likely guy to go.   I don't expect any other MLB signing given how close they are to the threshold, but I can see them giving out minor league deals, and giving guys opportunities to win IF or OF bench roles, as well as relief roles.  And probably at least one SP candidate. 

So they should not need to drop anyone for a while, unless somebody drops in salary demand enough for them to consider for a SP, RP, or even bench role, both IF or OF.  We only have Tomlinson and Sandoval for IF, no depth there at all other than the aforementioned Vielma.  And while we have a number of OF, they could decide they would rather see Slater and Williamson start in AAA than sit on the bench in the majors. 

But for the most part, all the roles on the team are pretty set, with just a handful of battles for positions here and there:  last short relief role, long relief, #4 and #5 starting rotation roles (which is mixed in with the long relief role), starting CF, the two OF bench roles. 

Go Giants!


  1. I dont think duggar is on the 40 man yet, so they will have to make room for him eventually

    1. Yeah, there is no need at the moment to add Duggar to the 40-man unless he's on the 25-man roster. The Giants have all spring to make that determination.

      For now, unless they add another MLB contract, they do not need another spot on the 40-man beyond the one that they need for Jackson now.

      Perhaps that defensive CF Baggarly mentioned, perhaps they can trade off 2+ 40-man assets and get that down some.

      The more I think of it, the more I think that if the Giants were to trade relievers, Strickland would be the one to go, as Gearrin has elite spin/xwOBA with his pitches. But I admit I haven't looked at Hunter's stats, maybe he's good too. But to get a good player, you have to give up as well, so we'll see what transpires.

  2. The official Giants site doesn’t include P. Johnson on the 40-man. But yes, if Duggar is to be added, someone will have to go. Who that will be, ST will let one know.

    1. Per the official 40-man at this URL, Pierce is on the 40:

      I understand that one to be the official Giants website.

  3. Baggarly reported that the escalators involves meeting usage targets in 2018 and would be added onto his 2019 contract. So $3M is locked in for 2018. It would be interesting to know at which PA he would vest the escalators at.

    He also speculated that the Giants are not done because Jackson has not been a full-time starter for a number of years now, and thus will reprise the 4th OF role he had with Cleveland last season. Thus he thinks the Giants might still be looking for a trade for a young cheap defensive CF who is not arbitration eligible, as Jackson should have used up much of their payroll before the penalty threshold.

    However, I don't see that happening unless the Giants plan on trading away Pence (or even Jackson or this new trade acquisition) mid-season should Duggar get promoted in-season, as that would pack the Giants OF with four contracts: Pence, McCutchen, Jackson, and this trade acquisition. That would add another OF who could start but then Duggar might come up and push him to the bench?

    The only reason I see this trade happening is if the Giants actually feel that Duggar will not be ready at any point in 2018, that they need a full AAA season to fully judge how well he will do in the majors, and thus they need a full-time starter in CF.

    But all their talk is about how close to being ready he is right now. Assuming he rises by mid-season, Jackson would be fine as the fill-in, with Gorkys and Parker stealing some AB's in CF. Should Duggar not be ready, if the Giants are still competitive, they could do that trade then for defensive CF on the cheap.

    Will be interesting...

    1. Latest news from Jon Heyman tweet: $3M each year, 2019 salary can go up $1M based on 2018 PA, also $1.5M in 2019 PA incentives.

      Also, in press conference today, Giants made it pretty clear that Jackson is not the starting CF, but rather the top 4th OF, supplanting Gorkys from that role. He's certainly a viable option, but they didn't get him to be their starting CF.
      As I said somewhere (definitely tweeted), he's taking the Blanco role. As a number of media types have opined, this means that the Giants are counting on Duggar sometime soon in the 2018 season, perhaps as soon as Opening Day. I agree, as there is no money to get anything better before spring training.

      Though they haven't fully ruled Jackson starting yet, it depends on what Duggar does in spring and if they are able to trade for a starting CF type.

      They also noted that they are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold, and might entertain getting that defensive starting CF via trade for a pre-arb player (in order to stay under luxury tax), but at the moment, they are looking at Duggar competing with himself, basically, the way I'm reading it, to start opening day, either as clear starter or in platoon with Jackson in CF. As I've noted before, Duggar has been rated as above average defensively in CF.

  4. Darryl Zero noted that Peter Bourjos or Desmond Jennings are available as non-roster invitees (NR() who would cost about the MLB vet min if they made the roster. And he considers both to be well above average, if not plus, defenders in CF.

    If they go that way, I it would mean that either Gorkys or Parker will be the odd man out in the OF shuffle, and given Parker's power, and the new guy basically providing what Gorkys provide, OK bat who can play CF well, he seems like the most obvious candidate in this scenario.

    But lots of ways this can play out still, all speculation for now, so we'll see what happens.

  5. Hey OGC - thanks for tracking me down on twitter! I miss having a blog for offseasons like this...

    Reading over the various commentary there sure is a lot of noise about the Giants being old. Early 30s are the new old I guess, this isn't quite like the Bonds/Finley/Alou OF eh?

    I enjoy your point about improving on last years black holes. One can hope that Pence comes back more healthy to help the LF that was a true wasteland last year, McCutchen improves upon Pence's numbers in RF and Longoria takes them further than Nunes/Sandoval et al.

    Its exciting to see how much the defense might be improved.

    I have to admit I'm nervous about the bullpen, which has not been good the past two years, and not much being done besides sticking with Sam Dyson, hoping to get back fully healthy Smith and Melancon. I do like DJ Snelten as a dark horse lefty... it just reminds that the unheralded part of three rings was that signing of Jeremy Affeldt.

    I'm not a fan of Hunter Strickland, and I do think they need a lot more in terms of bullpen, particularly lefties.

    Enjoyed your profile on Chris Stratton. Huge opportunity this year, Stratton and Blach backed by Beede and Suarez. Should be very interesting in terms of farmhand trust.

    I like Austin Jackson as a low risk insurance policy - this is definitely a no-vote for confidence in Williamson and Parker, who both have had bad break injuries but also have not seized the opportunities given.

    This is most likely the best Giants OF in quite a while. With more OF prospects on the way. I'm going to post a couple thoughts on the minor league system, just wanted to publish this note first.

    1. Hey, no problem, just saw your post somewhere so I wanted to wish you a Happy New Year, and then when McCutchen trade happened, I thought of you.

      I think sabers been drinking their Kool-Aid too much and parroting each other. Yes, 30's is a bad period for players, but generally the best players continue to be almost as good, hence why sabers only deduct 0.5 WAR when calculating the production value of a contract. That's why Bill James when estimating career milestones for players, he assumes 1.5 years of production at latest level of production. Baseball HQ research found that reliability of production, for fantasy purposes, is highest in the early 30's, peaking then, as players consolidate their learning, whereas younger players have their ups and downs learning and adjusting, and older players hit the skids.

      I'm not too worried about Pence unless the Giants continue to Durham him and let him stick around with an injury (which is probable, but I'm wishing here). Just DL him and bring up Slater to start in LF, or at least platoon with Parker in LF.

      Yes, defensive upgrade (assuming Duggar in CF), could be day and night, as 3B was bad defensively most of the season, and CF all of the season. Plus, Pence was never that great in RF. Lognroia makes it a Gold Glove infield of Posey, Belt, Panik, and Crawford (I know Belt don't have one, but he's good), and we go from -45 DRS (roughly 4.5 losses) to at least average (or 0 DRS), the pitching staff could be like Lincecum and doing handstands for that!

      And that was so unlike Sabean teams, he's always likes to have good defense.

    2. I'm worried about LHP in the bullpen too, we once had 3 of them in the bullpen, and now down to Smith. Snelton might be able to force his way in because of this.

      I worry about Strickland as well, hence why I've been speculating that he might be the one traded if the Giants want to clear payroll space, as well as being a valuable trading chip as well.

      Still, Dyson hung in there OK for us, and I think can be better in 2018, and Strickland and Gearrin was very good for us. I'll admit that Melancon and Smith are big question marks, but I think we are mostly covered by having Dyson to fall back on, and I still like Okert, who had a nice September for us, and Law, who also had a nice September for us as well. If Smith is out, I can see Law and Okert winning the last two bullpen spots, and battle to keep thet final spot when Smith is ready to come back to the majors. Moronta also did nicely in his debut as well. Plus, of course, there's Snelton lurking, could force his way into conversation after his great 2017.

      While there are question marks, I think we are good enough for the Giants to trade for a veteran mid-season, like we did for Lopez not that long ago, though that would have CBT implications unless the Giants shift some salary somewhere. Probably would have to give up a better prospect to get some cash back in the deal.

    3. Thanks, glad you like the Stratton piece. And we just signed Hesto for SP depth in the farm system, as well as competition for the fifth starting spot, as well as long relief.

    4. Good point about this being the best OF we have had in a while.

      As I noted, Jackson is the new Blanco, for roughly Blanco prices, so not bad. I don't know if that is no-vote for Williamson and Parker, but definitely think it is a no vote for Gorkys, as he had the Blanco role but never grabbed it with both hands. His slow start last season probably sealed his fate.

      It definitely puts the onus on Parker, since he don't have options, as he'll be battling with Gorkys for that last OF spot now, after McCutchen, Jackson, Pence, and if Duggar wins the starting CF spot or the spot is otherwise filled. He should have the edge due to his power and offense, plus has been good defensively in LF and okay for the OF overall.

    5. Oh, and thanks for sharing your thoughts! I miss hearing your opinion on all things Giants related, and glad that you could share your thoughts here with me.

      Best, ogc

  6. I am looking forward to seeing what comes of the Giants big farm re-org. As we have often discussed, it is hard to develop from the minors when you are winning and drafting in the teens and 20s.

    Looking at the latest BA top 100 that just came out, one thing that is striking is the top 10 is 7 IFAs, a top of the draft guy, a first rounder and a 2nd rounder. If there is one thing that I do think the Giants should do differently, it would be shaking up their scouting/development in IFA.

    However... I don't know if you can look at any particular team and say they've done amazing at IFA. Often times its the unheralded small signing (such as Acuna). And then sometimes its the big blue chip like Ohtani or Vlad Jr.

    With the entire top 5 of the 2017 draft making the BA 100, its actually great news that Ramos could join, a lot of the draft between that top 5 and him didn't. With the 2nd overall, odds are likely the perception of the farm will be different next year.

    That's the best part of the offseason for me - hanging onto Ramos, and that 2nd pick in the late 30s/early 40s. I do think they need to work on getting those big pieces, taking bigger swings over the lower ceiling higher probability picks.

    On the other hand, in the past 5 years, there isn't anything that is a major miss because of draft position. Touki instead of Beede? Beede is knocking on the door, Touki has control issues galore.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with using the farm to supplement the big club. I'm impressed, even if they are not the stars they once were, that Evans was able to snag. Arroyo, Crick, Reynolds are all fairly high draft picks of course, but I don't think any will be stars. We'll see soon.

    1. Yeah, can't wait to see what Bell has up his sleeve. I am excited to see what he can bring to our system from the Cards. They have been so good at developing players that you and I have noticed how good they are over the years, and I hope he can bring some innovation to our club, especially where IFA are concerned, where they have had better luck than we have.

      Yeah, the #2 and #41 picks, along with Ramos, are probably going to boost up the Giants farm system perception, I agree.

      I also agree that keeping the picks and Ramos was one of the best parts of the off-season. I agree that it would be nice if they take some bigger swings, in order to hit a homerun. The doubles are nice when our core was young, but we need some lightening strikes to happen to jump-start the NextGen Giants.

      I also agree that we did not give up all that much, in the big picture, in order to get Longo and Cutch. You have to give some to get some but we held onto Ramos, Beede, Shawsome, and Suarez, so I'm happy too.



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