Nearly a month ago, the baseball world was thrown into a frenzy. Not just because it was the non-waiver trade deadline, but because David Price was traded. That the former Cy Young winner had been dealt wasn’t the shock. Everyone and the foul pole knew that was coming for years, but the shock was who acquired him— the Detroit Tigers. Detroit didn’t just do it on their own, they got the Seattle Mariners involved— acquiring Price from Tampa Bay, flipping Drew Smyly and minor league shortstop Willy Adames to Tampa and sending Austin Jackson to Seattle, who in turn sent Nick Franklin to the Rays.
While most will talk about how Detroit came away as a huge winner or maybe Tampa Bay didn’t get as much as it could have, the Mariners are the forgotten team in the trade. Seattle made out like highway bandits. Highway bandits.
The Mariners’ offensive output was horrendous. The infield is excused from this discussion because of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. While the infield gets a pass, the outfield doesn’t. The pre-trade deadline offensive production in the outfield was dreadful.
Like any good general manager of a contending team, Jack Zduriencik made a trade to fix that. In actuality, he made two. One was to bring in Chris Denorfia, who is at best a platoon option on a good team, and the second involved acquiring Jackson.
The one-time Yankee farmhand hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in the Emerald City. He’s hitting .227 with a .542 OPS and is averaging one strikeout per game. But, at age 27, Jackson still has room to improve and time to get back on track. At best he’s a .290-ish hitter who’ll reach double digits in homeruns, steals, triples and approach 30 doubles. In addition, he plays strong defense in center field. The caveat with Austin Jackson is that he strikes out a lot. He paced the league with 170 punch outs his rookie season and fanned at least 100 times every season he’s been in the big leagues.
So, maybe he strikes out a lot. Maybe too much. But at this point, the Mariners will take any offense they can get, no matter what the cost (i.e. lots of strikeouts). It wasn’t exactly like the M’s acquired a .227 hitter in the trade; Jackson hit .273 in 100 games for Detroit. If he can get close to that number, he’ll be exactly what the Mariners need.
What made the Jackson trade look so one sided was what Zduriencik gave up to acquire the former Tiger— minor league second baseman Nick Franklin. Once thought to be one half of the Mariners’ double play combo of the future, along with Brad Miller, Franklin hit a mere .225 in his first season. Despite that, he showed promise with 12 homeruns and 45 runs driven in across only 102 games. All of that progress was seemingly chucked out the window when Seattle signed current offensive catalyst (and second baseman) Robinson Cano. Franklin was then thrown into a spring training battle with Miller for the starting shortstop job. Miller won the job, hence making Franklin expandable.
The second baseman only got into 17 games with the Mariners. He hit an extremely underwhelming .128. His OPS over those games? .363. It wasn’t a case of Franklin being in the minors because of lack of available at bats in Seattle. It was because of a lack of production in Seattle.
The bottom line is that the Mariners acquired Austin Jackson for Nick Franklin. They acquired an above-average center fielder for a minor league second baseman who was failing to produce in the majors, an established player with a track record for above-average play for a player whose value comes more from a promise that may or may not come, as opposed to on-the-field play.
The Mariners didn’t bring in David Price like the rumor mill thought they would, but they were still involved in the trade. And from their perspective, it looks pretty good.
All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.