This may not have been the wild, splashy deadline some people were hoping for, but given where the Mariners stand right now, today's deadline resulted with a pair of rational decisions to address a pressing need.
The Mariners have gotten the center fielder they so desperately needed despite a perceived lack of availability for one, and it's Austin Jackson from the Detroit Tigers in a three way deal that sends David Price to the Detroit Tigers, and Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin to the Tampa Bay Rays. Strangely enough, we suggested trading Nick Franklin for Austin Jackson (with others) in our 2014 offseason plan.
Jackson, a right-handed CF, has a 100 wRC+ in what has been a bit of a down year for him offensively, though he'll still be a significant upgrade to the Mariners outfield. He's hitting a whopping 131 wRC+ against lefties, though he's actually carried a reverse split over his career (108 vs. RH, 100 vs. LH). He's controlled through 2015 in arbitration, where he'll make upwards of the $6 million he's currently owed this season. The Mariners now have a nice core going forward for 2015, and while both Jackson and Hisashi Iwakuma will be free agents after next year, they've plugged a major hole.
Jackson and Denorfia should bump James Jones back to AAA, while Endy Chavez now finds himself out of playing time. Jackson will play every day in center, while Lloyd McClendon has already expressed his intent to play Denorfia extensively in right. Ackley stays in left field for now, and when Michael Saunders returns, he'll probably find himself playing most games back in right field while Denorfia shifts into more of a platoon role. Suddenly, the Mariners outfield went from a total cesspool to respectable.
Jackson grades out as a slightly below-average center fielder defensively this year, but both DRS and UZR have loved him in the past, as his career ratings are both positive despite a large disparity between the two (+50 DRS, +1.2 UZR). No matter what, he'll be a huge upgrade on James Jones. In his past two injury-shortened years, Jackson was worth 3.2 fWAR in 2013 and 5.2 fWAR in his 2012 campaign. Jackson has been worth an average of 3.8 fWAR per 162 games through his five seasons. His offense has declined as the power has gone missing, but nobody knows him better than Lloyd McClendon, who spent all of Jackson's pre-2014 career as his hitting coach in Detroit. Jackson is a true, everyday center fielder, and the Mariners got him for somebody they were pretty clearly never going to use after signing Robinson Cano.
If Jackson returns to the 3-5 win player he was before 2014, this deal is fantastic. If he's the 2 win player he is now, they might have added more than 2 wins to their team next year, because they've got a whole lot of below-replacement level talent filling up center field in the organization. Still more than solid. Given his age, potentially fluky defensive metrics, and reunion with Lloyd McClendon, there's plenty of reason to believe Jackson isn't in true decline and can bounce back.
The cost is just Nick Franklin and nobody else, despite some erroneous rumors regarding Taijuan Walker near the deadline. Franklin has clearly been an afterthought in the Mariners organization after being passed up for Chris Taylor in this week's promotion, and the Mariners still hold onto Brad Miller, giving themselves plenty of middle infield depth. The Rays might turn Franklin into a pretty quality power-hitting infielder, but it's been clear for months that Franklin wasn't going to be a part of the Mariners' future, even as an outfielder.
Franklin for Jackson straight up is a win for the Mariners, who have managed to make sizable additions to their most gaping holes without sacrificing the farm or forgetting about the future. Given the team's declining playoff odds and their current cold streak, buying for both 2014 and 2015 with a blocked player and probably inconsequential prospects is a successful day at the office.
This is a smart, measured approach from the Mariners. It's also highly creative, as Jackson was hardly a name most considered to be available. It might not be enough to get them back into a playoff spot, but either way, they'll have another crack at it in 2015 with Jackson patrolling center field. Even if this is Jack Zduriencik's last year at the helm, he should be commended for making moves in the organization's best interest instead throwing it all away for what could be one of, if not, his last crack at the postseason. They've also allowed themselves the opportunity to explore a post-deadline acquisition if they're still in it and need another piece.