SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Austin Jackson is considered a utility outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, who are searching for another player at the position as spring training nears.
Jackson joined the Giants on a $6 million, two-year contract Monday but not necessarily to be a starter in center field. General manager Bobby Evans said Tuesday the club would “keep doors open internally and externally as we get closer to spring training.”
How much Jackson starts in center could depend on Steven Duggar’s development and whether he makes the club out of spring training. Duggar batted .261 with two home runs and six RBIs in 13 games with Triple-A Sacramento last season and played at three levels in the minors, hitting .262 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 44 games.
Jackson will earn $3 million per season, and has $1 million in escalators in 2019 plus $1.5 million in performance bonuses for the second year.
His 2019 salary would increase by $250,000 each for 300, 325, 350 and 375 plate appearances this year, and he could earn $250,000 apiece in 2020 for 300, 325, 350, 375, 450 and 475.
“Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” said Brian Sabean, Giants’ executive vice president of baseball operations.
Jackson, who turns 31 on Feb. 1 and can play all three outfield positions, batted .318 with seven homers, 19 doubles, three triples and 35 RBIs while limited to just 85 games because of injuries for Cleveland last season. His .352 average against left-handed pitchers ranked fourth in the American League.
The Jackson deal increased the Giants’ projected 2018 luxury tax payroll to about $195 million — just $2 million below the threshold — and the bonus structure pushed additional money into the deal’s second year.
Evans said the Giants still had some payroll wiggle room “to manage opportunities that come along” such as signing a player to a minor league deal before spring training or pursue an acquisition at the trade deadline come summer, though they could free up some space well before then with a trade.
“We’re still targeting to stay under the CBT but, again, it’s not a requirement,” Evans said. “We are staying active in discussions with options out there. We intend to stay with that target for now, below the threshold. ... The advantages to staying under it now, doesn’t mean when it’s all said and done that we’re under it, but there are advantages to it that if we can stay under it produces benefits into the future years, so we’re mindful of that.”
Manager Bruce Bochy is eager to see how his outfield takes shape. Hunter Pence will make the move to left field after the Giants acquired Andrew McCutchen from Pittsburgh last week to be the starter in right field, Pence’s old post.
“We still have an outfield spot there that is going to be competitive on who makes this club,” Bochy said. “Just to have these kind of options and this kind of defense and production from the outfield is going to be nice to have as we go into spring training.”