2015 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

Seattle Mariners trade Austin Jackson to the Chicago Cubs

Today marks a second deadline of sorts in MLB. As a matter of course, the waiver deadline doesn’t really exist, but MLB has established rules for the postseason and one of those rules is that teams must set their postseason rosters before the end of August 31st. There have been some minor tweaks in those rules in recent seasons, but those tweaks have not affected the waiver trading period. If you want a player to be on the playoff roster then you need to acquire before midnight eastern standard time.

The Chicago Cubs did just that when they acquired Austin Jackson from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for an international pool slot and a player to be named later. The trade came on the heels of regime change in Seattle. They are in the process of hiring a new general manager and so, it is somewhat surprising to see any moves made, but Jackson is an impending free agent and the Mariners aren’t going anywhere.

Why Chicago makes this trade

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The Cubs are in midst of a battle for the final wild card spot in the National League. Their closest rival for the spot comes from the San Francisco Giants at 69-61 (the Cubs are 74-55). Despite their strong record, the Cubs have been battered and beaten in the outfield. They have Dexter Fowler in center field, but the corner outfield slots have suffered as Jorge Soler is currently on the shelf and Chris Denorfia represents the only real depth they have in the outfield.

Chris Coghlan is currently listed as the left fielder. He can add some depth in the infield, but he is incapable of playing in the right field. Enter Austin Jackson. Jackson’s .272/.312/.387 slash line is very pedestrian, but as a stopgap measure he brings some speed and defensive ability to the plate. In fact, he would probably be a better defensive option than Dexter Fowler in center, but they probably wouldn’t make that change at this point. While the numbers look bleak, there are a couple of things in Jackson’s favor at this point.

First, Safeco Field has traditionally been a pitcher’s ballpark and Jackson’s numbers have generally gone down since going to the Mariners last season. This year, the splits show he is performing slightly better at home, but that is to be expected for most players. Wrigley Field is playing as a pitchers park this season, but is about as close to neutral as you can get on the multi-year rating. This is likely a break even point for Jackson as Safeco Field has also played as a pitcher’s park this season. Yet, Jackson’s work since the all-star break has been encouraging. His slash line is a healthy .304/.339/.435 in 178 plate appearances after the all-star break.

Why the Mariners make this deal

The Mariners had to send some cash in the deal to help offset the cost of Jackson’s contract, but they still enjoy some financial savings. The international bonus slot ends up amounting to a little over $200,000. That may not seem like a great deal, but it could be enough to land one of the top thirty international players in the 2016 signing period. So, think of it as getting an extra draft choice within the first five rounds of the draft. As you might suspect, the real key will be the player to be named later. Jackson wasn’t going to be a factor in 2016 for the Mariners anyway, so getting a couple of prospects for him is a good move regardless of their quality.

What this deal means for you

When you couple Jackson’s recent good play with the transfer to a better team, you get an intriguing late season option for teams looking for that late push. Some leagues are within a week of the playoffs. A .774 OPS (since the break) may not seem like much, but fantasy players may have to adjust their expectations. If you own him, he might be worth a start or two in the right situation. If you don’t own him, he might be a good pick up if he can add right field eligibility before the end of the fantasy season.

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