Jeff Kingston is currently the acting general manager of the Seattle Mariners, a team without an “actual” general manager. It’s a job that’s hardly a job, and one that Kingston’s not likely to have for much more than another month or two. It’s also a job that came with basically one task, and only one task: trade Austin Jackson for something. And so today, the Mariners traded Austin Jackson for something.
The Chicago Cubs swung a deal for A-Jax in advance of the waiver trade deadline, agreeing to send an international bonus slot and a player to be named later to the Mariners. So there’s the one-and-probably-only Kingston trade: one month of a pending (and underwhelming) free agent for some salary relief, a minor leaguer to be named later, and money to spend on prospects. Let’s take this one apart, shall we?
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Let’s start with what the Mariners are giving up, which is one month of Austin Jackson. Or at least it would have been one month of Jackson for the Mariners, who aren’t going to the playoffs. But the Cubs are going to the playoffs, probably, albeit as the second wild card. They might get Jackson for a month and a game in Pittsburgh – or they could have him through game seven of the World Series. It’s up to them to find out!
What Jackson has been with the Mariners is nothing close to what he was with the Detroit Tigers, of course, and so the Cubs are probably hoping to get more out of Jackson than Seattle was able to. That should be easy – the Mariners famously get very, very little value from any of their non-Nelson Cruz acquisitions. But even if Jackson is the punchless flop he was with the Mariners, he’ll still help Chicago as a righty-hitting depth outfielder capable of manning center.
And now the fun part. This is a good trade! The Mariners, despite their overall garbage direction these last years, have made some pretty good trades as of late. This, like their other recent minor moves, is a fine one. They used an expiring asset to gain something (or somethings) that seem more likely to help them down the line. Which was the goal, of course.
The player to be named later is a non-factor, for the purposes of this analysis. Don’t care about whoever that is – he’ll be nothing, or close to nothing. The Mariners are getting an international bonus slot worth $211,100. That’s a valuable asset! That bonus slot almost certainly has more value to the Mariners than one month of Austin Jackson. And so for that reason alone, it’s a good trade.
Aug 15, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson (16) rounds the bases after his home run against the Boston Red Sox during the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The M’s are kicking in roughly $430,000 in this trade, which means they’ve essentially swapped regular money for half as much of a very special, specific kind of money that can only be used on one thing – prospects. We’ve seen teams like the Dodgers place a much higher value on these bonus slots, so it’s not like the Mariners are trading a dime for a nickel here. They’re trading a dime for a gold-plated nickel that has a non-zero chance of turning into Felix Hernandez, or something like that.
Austin Jackson is gone and he won’t be missed. His year-plus in Seattle wasn’t a disaster, but it was a huge decline in offensive production from a guy who had some pretty amazing seasons under his belt in Detroit. The Mariners didn’t definitely ruin him, but it’s not hard to imagine that the Mariners ruined him. Luckily Mariners ruinations are un-ruinable, as we’ve seen before. And so maybe there’s hope that the Cubs will turn him around.
The new Seattle Mariners center fielder? That would be one Brad Miller, who the organization is intent on finding a spot for. He’s had good season at the plate, and though he’s a good defender at shortstop the team has seemed hellbent on displacing him. They’ve given short to Nick Franklin, Chris Taylor, and most recently Ketel Marte. Meanwhile all Miller’s done is play well there. Poor guy. At least he profiles as a pretty fun center fielder. It’ll give us something to watch this last month, at least.
Goodbye, Austin Jackson. Hello, international bonus pool spending money. It’s kind of amazing that we’re more excited to have the latter than the former, yet here we are. The Mariners made us this way.
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