Monday, March 7, 2016
Austin Jackson-Does he finally tip the scale against the Indians?
Being a fan of Cleveland teams in sports (Particularly non-capped ones),you have to be!
It can be hard to entice players to come to Cleveland in the first place and often the teams (read Indians) are underfunded,but this time I cannot fault the city,pro sports or anything else but the Indians themselves.
The Indians entered the winter with one of best rotations in baseball,but with a desperate need for hitters-particularly at third base and the outfield.
The outfield was a huge need considering only Michael Brantley was an average big league outfielder and the outstanding Brantley's status was considered to be tenuous at best with an injury that was figuring to keep him out of the lineup for a minimum of a month and likely more of the 2016 season.
Cleveland's answer to this was signing aging Mike Napoli to be the first baseman based off a good final month of the season (after a awful rest of it in Boston) in Texas and a spring training sign of another aging player in Juan Uribe-who at 36,245 pounds and losing defensive range by chunks,looks to be perhaps a risk likely to fail.
However,the bigger indictment was the signing of veteran Rajai Davis in the off-season.
Davis signed a one year deal for a nick over five million,which is a little of an overpay,but not outrageous.
However,Jackson is a better player,younger and both would eventually sign for similar deals,but lets not get too far out front yet.
Put aside the questionable decision of Davis,a player that at 35 brings one tool to the table (speed) that is beginning to fade (Steals dropped in half last year 36 to 18) and was a 4th outfielder at his peak and that brings us at the decision to bank on Abraham Almonte.
Again,put aside the eventual PED suspension of Almonte-the Indians didn't know that was coming entering the hot stove league,Look deeper to see why the team banked so much on a career AAA outfielder that put together this line in 51 games at the Jake (.264 ,5 and 20) to begin with,
What about Almonte enabled the Indians to believe that he was the everyday answer to begin with,even with a healthy Michael Brantley,Almonte wasn't anywhere near that type of player.
Which brings us back to Austin Jackson.
Now Austin Jackson's numbers have dipped over the last two years,but I'm willing to excuse that a little by considering he played for three teams in that span and some players are affected more than others by changes in ballparks,leagues etc.
Jackson is younger than Davis (29 to 35) and comparable to Almonte (Jackson turned 29 in January to Almonte turning 27 in June),has better career numbers and has a track record of being able to be a full time starter,which is more than I can say about Davis,Almonte or any of the other players out of the grab bag that the Indians signed in the off season for outfield competition in Collin Cowgill,Joey Butler or the in-house competitors headed to a AAA ballpark near you in Zach Walters, Tyler Naquin and James Ramsey.
When you consider all of the things wrong with the Indians lineup and especially the outfield,one would make an argument that Jackson (still a free agent until yesterday) would have been a nice fit on a one year deal (which he signed with division rival Chicago) and at a cost BELOW that of Davis (five million) for a team in either need or (in my opinion) desperate need would have been an excellent fit.
However,Indians fans saw this "the budget is tight and Jackson would have wanted more to play here than Chicago" and naturally thought-finances,AGAIN.
I'm not going to argue against that,especially considering that for an additional five-six million that the Wahoos would have a much better chance of avoiding dropping to their knees out of the gate,but what I will say is this-The Indians did a poor job of allocating the finances that they did have.
Rajai Davis is not a MLB average starting outfielder and even if Austin Jackson didn't perform up to expectations over his career,I'd still consider him a better player than Davis.
The Indians took what money they had and invested into a guy that looked ready for retirement before a final month in one of the best hitters parks in the game,a mediocre 4th/5th outfielder and then in desperation signed a older player with a slowing bat and a weight problem to address a problem that wasn't even mildly looked at.
Now is the issue that the Indians don't have the funds or don't allocate them properly?
I'd make the argument that it is both.
Combine the two and you have a good reason why the Indians have a tough time pleasing their ardent fans and capturing the casual ones....