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Red Sox “considering” Austin Jackson

As a signing, not a trade target

San Franciso Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This time of year is filled with excitement regarding big-time trade targets and dreams of blockbusters that will shape franchises for years to come. Allow me to bring you down from that high with an Extremely Boring rumor that doesn’t even involve a trade! According to Jon Heyman, the Red Sox are interested in free agent outfielder Austin Jackson to provide some additional depth at the position in the organization.

Now, before you get all up-in-arms about what this would mean for the roster and why this would be a focus for the Red Sox, just know that this would almost certainly be a minor-league deal. Jackson has a strong track record in the majors, but his best days are behind him. The veteran played 59 games for the Giants earlier this year and hit just .242/.309/.295 for a 68 wRC+. In other words, he was 32 percent worse than the league-average hitter. He was eventually sent to Texas in a trade, and the Rangers immediately released him.

As for why the Red Sox would be interested, well, they don’t have a ton of true outfielders on their depth chart. It’s true that they have a bunch of guys who can play the outfield — Brock Holt, Eduardo Núñez, Steve Pearce, Blake Swihart, Tzu-Wei Lin, Sam Travis — but there are a couple of issues with that. For one thing, the team has suffered from depth issues in the infield and behind the plate, so stretching that depth even thinner is not ideal. Plus, none of them are particularly good at playing the outfield.

Jackson, meanwhile, has always been a solid defensive outfielder and would provide veteran depth in the minors, joining Brandon Phillips and Adam Lind in that regard. He also isn’t too far removed from being a good major-league player, having just hit .318/.387/.482 for a 131 wRC+ in Cleveland last year. Those numbers were always unsustainable, but he showed plenty of signs of being a useful player as recently as 2017.

If signed, Jackson would immediately become the top outfield option in Triple-A, jumping over Rusney Castillo (there is still no indication the Red Sox ever plan to call him up, and he’s not exactly forcing the issue), Kyle Wren, Cole Sturgeon and Aneury Tavarez. In the event they do make this move, he would never need to be used in an ideal world. That said, assuming it’s a minor-league pact there’s really no risk.