With the squad desperate for an offensive boost, the front office found a way to bring in Austin Jackson as part of a three-team trade, as explained by MLB:
While the Mariners gave up infield prospect Nick Franklin, this was a perfect move for them to have a strong finish to the year.
Coming into the season, few expected much out of Seattle. The team finished 71-91 in 2013 and did not make too many significant upgrades outside of Robinson Cano. However, the pitching picked up to help carry the group into playoff contention.
Although the American League West has been one of the toughest divisions in baseball, the Mariners were in position to win the second wild-card spot at the All-Star break.
Unfortunately, the offense was not holding up its end of the bargain. While the team had the No. 1 ERA in the majors heading into the trade deadline, it only ranked 27th in runs scored. This anemic offense helped cause Seattle to start the second half with a 4-8 record, falling behind in the playoff race.
Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times noted that a slight increase in run production could make a big difference:
#Mariners averaging 3.8 runs per game. Even factoring in recent regression, if offense upgrades about half-run, these losses become wins.— Geoff Baker (@GeoffBakerTIMES) July 25, 2014
This is where Jackson can make a huge difference. Kevin Burkhardt of SNY.tv notes how good of a deal the Mariners got in their end of the trade:
Here is a question: how on earth did the Mariners give up Nick Franklin and get back Austin Jackson?? Steal for Seattle.— Kevin Burkhardt (@kevinburkhardt) July 31, 2014
Jackson is having a bit of a down year with a .270/.330/.397 and just four home runs. However, he has been red-hot as of late, totaling a .343 batting average in July to rank sixth in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances.
The 27-year-old outfielder is a catalyst at the top of the lineup who knows how to get himself into scoring position. This will make it easy for players like Cano or Kyle Seager to bring him home, and his runs will instantly lead to more wins.
Meanwhile, Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon notes that Jackson can make an impact in other aspects of the game, via Greg Johns of MLB.com:
Defensively he's probably one of the top three center fielders in all of baseball. He gets those kind of jumps and he's played in the biggest center field in baseball in Detroit. And offensively, this guy is pretty accomplished. He had close to 200 hits a couple years, he scores close to 100 runs, he's good at the top of the order, he steals bases and he knows what he's doing. He's a veteran hitter.
Obviously, this all will be a huge help this season for a squad hoping to reach the playoffs.
Of course, his involvement will not be limited to his production on the field. Jackson was a well-respected member of the Tigers for the past few years, as seen by his in-game exit after being traded:
The outfielder can be a leader for this young team as soon as he gets into the locker room. His vast postseason experience from the past three years should give him credibility and help bring confidence to a team that needs it.
After a poor couple of weeks, it would not have been surprising to see the Mariners stay put at the trade deadline and continue building toward the future. However, dealing away Franklin for an impact player like Jackson shows that the squad is still trying to compete now.
Thanks to this addition, Seattle will be a serious contender in the American League going forward.
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