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Giants find center fielder, sign free agent A-Jax

Outfielder could solidify position or platoon after club added Cutch to play right
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants completed their outfield upgrade, at least on paper, by agreeing with free-agent center fielder Austin Jackson on a two-year, $6 million deal on Monday.

The club confirmed the accord shortly after a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that the sides had reached a deal that could be worth up to $8.5 million with incentives.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants completed their outfield upgrade, at least on paper, by agreeing with free-agent center fielder Austin Jackson on a two-year, $6 million deal on Monday.

The club confirmed the accord shortly after a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that the sides had reached a deal that could be worth up to $8.5 million with incentives.

Adding Jackson, who will turn 31 on Feb. 1, conceivably represents the final step in San Francisco's attempt to improve its outfield defense. Jackson gives the Giants a legitimate center fielder, though Steven Duggar -- their No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline -- will compete for playing time during Spring Training. Former Pirates star Andrew McCutchen, obtained in a trade last week, is expected to play right field. Hunter Pence, San Francisco's regular right fielder since he was acquired from Philadelphia at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2012, will play left or become the fourth outfielder.

Video: Rosenthal on Jackson's deal with the Giants

Giants general manager Bobby Evans said in a statement that Jackson "is a talented and versatile player who will strengthen our roster and provide additional depth at all three outfield positions."

This indicated that Jackson, a right-handed batter, could platoon with the left-handed-swinging Duggar. Playing left field part-time is also a possibility for Jackson, who has made 42 appearances there during eight Major League seasons.

Jackson thrived with the Indians last season, recording a slash line of .318/.387/.482 with seven home runs in 85 games while mostly occupying a platoon role against left-handed pitchers. In 141 plate appearances against lefties in 2017, he posted a 1.013 OPS with four homers.

Video: Sabean, Evans on Jackson signing a two-year deal

Jackson owns a lifetime slash line of .275/.336/.403, with 111 stolen bases and 62 home runs. The Giants limited him to a .231 batting average (3-for-13) while sweeping the Tigers, with whom he spent his first 4 1/2 seasons, in the 2012 World Series.

Though Jackson's defensive statistics aren't stunning, his presence ought to help improve the Giants' outfield defense overall. According to Statcast™, they ranked next-to-last in the Majors with minus-16 Outs Above Average (OAA) last year. Jackson had a minus-2 OAA. Denard Span, San Francisco's primary center fielder, and Pence ranked among the National League's bottom 20 outfielders in terms of average arm strength.

The Giants were said to have interest in other free-agent center fielders, including Jarrod Dyson (plus-7 OAA in 2017), Cameron Maybin (plus-2) and Jon Jay (minus-3).

Video: Bochy on signing Jackson, usage in outfield

According to FanGraphs, San Francisco also recorded minus-45 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), worst in the Majors last season. Its minus-11.4 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) ranked third-to-last among the 30 teams.

Jackson had a minus-2 DRS and a minus-4.4 UZR in 2017.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Austin Jackson