In a move that may eventually be considered better late than never, the Chicago White Sox have signed Austin Jackson to a one-year deal worth $5 million, according to Jon Heyman.
The White Sox were seemingly rumored to be involved with every free-agent outfielder this offseason, consistently missing one after another. After missing on the big names, with the common excuse thought to be they were not willing to give up a draft pick for any of the players tied to a qualifying offer, they will go with Jackson.
Jackson, who hit for a .267/.311/.385 line between the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago Cubs last year, will be considered for a starting role with the outfield-hungry White Sox. Heyman also reported that he turned down more money from other teams in favor of a possible center-field spot with the White Sox. If Jackson were to win the job in center, that would push Adam Eaton to a corner position. According to Fangraphs, Jackson earned a 7.2 UZR rating as an outfielder in 2015 compared to the -10.2 UZR from Eaton, so the upgrade would be large.
If Eaton moves to a corner, it would presumably push Avisail Garcia out of an everyday starting outfield role, and possibly into a platoon role at designated hitter with Adam LaRoche. LaRoche and Garcia have opposite splits and the setup could give manager Robin Ventura some flexibility to play with depending on the opposing pitcher.
The White Sox batting lineup is also still debatable but Jackson has spent the majority of his career as a leadoff hitter. Eaton has been the leadoff hitter the last few seasons for the White Sox but both of them fit the definition of a top-of-the-order bat.
Possible motives for the late move could be pending injuries for Eaton and LaRoche. Eaton has yet to play in the outfield during spring training after offseason shoulder surgery performed in October. LaRoche was pulled from Saturday’s game due to tightness in his back.
A roster move to make space for Jackson has yet to be determined.