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San Francisco Giants: Is Austin Jackson meant to be a fourth outfielder?

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 13: San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean sits in the stands during a workout session in preparation for the National League Championship Series at AT
SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 13: San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean sits in the stands during a workout session in preparation for the National League Championship Series at AT /
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The San Francisco Giants officially announced Austin Jackson as a member of the team yesterday evening. A welcomed addition to the lineup, his combo of speed and solid center-field defense is much needed.

The San Francisco Giants needed help in center-field. Austin Jackson certainly provides that. In our article reporting on the news of the signing we went with the theory that he either has the opening day job, or he’s going to platoon with Steven Duggar as he works on his hitting against lefties. But, a few things have begun to throw a wrinkle in that.

While it would be pretty cool of us to give credit to Andrew Baggarly for reporting something completely un-thought about by most Giants fans, that wouldn’t be fair. Bobby Evans actually said it first, in his own statement about Austin Jackson. It wasn’t until Baggarly’s tweet though, that most Giants fans (myself included) realized what exactly Bobby Evans had said.

Kerry Crowley from KNBR tweeted what was inboxed to myself, which was the statement that Bobby Evans made. That statement is:

"We are excited to have Austin join the Giants. He is a talented and versatile player who will strengthen and our roster and provide depth at all three outfield positions."

Now of course, I, initially read that as  “Jackson is really athletic, and most of the time if dudes play center they can play all three. Duh. He’s your opening day CF.”

Then came the Baggarly tweet:

After first getting into Baggarly’s comments, I thought, “Dang he really went off the deep and at The Athletic.” But again after further analysis, that’s not the case. Baggarly is completely sane because the Bobby Evans statement eludes to that, PLUS the fact that he

probably

has way better sources than I do.

In Baggarly’s article($) he says the following:

"The Giants front office knew it would be mandatory this winter to acquire a solidly above-average defender in center field. They are not finished addressing that mandate after agreeing to terms on a two-year, $6 million contract with outfielder Austin Jackson. Those in the know tell me that the Giants signed Jackson to serve as a depth piece at all three outfield spots, reprising the successful role he held with the Cleveland Indians last year."

That’s a pretty big bombshell. And no, I didn’t reveal “paid” portions of the article, so don’t get all up in arms.

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This is pretty intriguing though. The question begs though, who do they get to actually be their center-fielder? Austin Jackson on a $3 million/year deal sure lowers the market price, but not enough for any guys who would actually be first choice, every day center fielders.

Jon Jay, Cameron Maybin, Lorenzo Cain, and Jarrod Dyson are the only guys who would be remotely close to Jackson and bring equal/better defense. All will likely be at the same price or more, but the Giants don’t have that room to maneuver with the Luxury Tax.

So there is two possibilities here where Austin Jackson is a fourth outfielder. One would involve Baggarly being wrong about something. So here are the scenarios:

  1. Baggarly is 100% correct, and the Giants either have a killer trade up their sleeves, or they aren’t worried about the Luxury Tax threshold at all (they shouldn’t, they’re rolling in cash).
  2. Baggarly is 50% correct, and the Giants believe that Steven Duggar is the real answer to center-field and are ready to commit to that, but aren’t ready to do so publicly. But Austin Jackson is still very much a fourth outfielder.

That second theory has been expounded upon in an article published this morning by our other Expert, Jake Mastroianni. Here is the link to that:

Next: Jackson deal means the Giants are all in on Duggar

The point of this wasn’t to play who is wrong and who is right. The point of this was to say, “HEY. AUSTIN JACKSON IS LIKELY GOING  TO BE THE FOURTH OUTFIELDER AND YOU ALL MISSED IT!”

It’s ok. I did to initially. But if the Giants plan going forward truly is to have Jackson as a fourth outfielder, that’s really freaking good. But it also is concerning for guys like Austin Slater. Unless they’re using Slater as trade bait? Which would be really lame, especially if the trade is for another 30 something-year-old outfielder.

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