Apr 14, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson (14) rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the second inning during a game against the Oakland Athetics at O.co Coliseum. Tigers won 10-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Tigers Should Look To Extend Austin Jackson

With the recent extension of Justin Verlander, it has been the assumption of many that the Tigers are now going to turn their efforts toward Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is signed with the Tigers through 2015 at which point he will be 32 years old. With Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder already garnering $200M dollar contracts, I’m probably one of the few people that thinks the Tigers may not look to extend Cabrera at that age and the dollars that he would demand.

This brings me to Austin Jackson.

Taking the small sample that is 2013 into consideration, Austin Jackson appears to be an emerging superstar in the game of baseball. If he isn’t the best center fielder in the American League, he is in the same class as those who are. He is also playing 2013 for $3.5M dollars as a first year arbitration eligible.

So, if he has two years of tremendous value, why would I as the Tigers look to extend Jackson now?

Well, it’s simple really. The Tigers overpay on the two arbitration years in order to get two or three years of free agency at a rate cheaper than what he will earn on the open market. And let’s not kid ourselves, Austin Jackson is pushing himself towards a big pay day.

Since 2010, Jackson has averaged just a tiny bit more than 3.8 fWAR per year. That is an extremely valuable player at an extremely valuable position. His best season, last year, he posted 5.2 fWAR which was second in the American League to the all-world performance put up by the Angels Mike Trout. His WAR total and overall numbers led to a couple of conclusions. Jackson is one of the game’s best young center fielders, and two, he is still improving.

While Jackson does get a nice bump from a healthy BABIP, he has shown that he can carry those high averages for a whole season, partly due to a line drive rate that he has kept in the mid 20′s percentile two of the three full seasons that he has played. But what is really interesting about Jackson is that he has seen his K rate decrease from the mid to upper 20 percent to 21 percent last year. This season in early action, Jackson is striking out just a paltry 8% of the time. On top of his decreasing strike out rate, Jackson is developing more power, as well as getting on base more, becoming one of the most dynamic lead off men in the game. He does have ability to steal 2o bases a year, making him a 20/20 potential guy, but the Tigers just don’t run that much. He also plays a Gold Glove caliber defense.

At 26 years old, Jackson is just beginning to hit what is considered the prime of his career. The next two years of team control means that Jackson will be with the Tigers through age 28, but getting him until he is 31 or 32 years old would be optimal.

I firmly believe that making Jackson’s future comfortable now is the beneficial thing to do for the Tigers. They really don’t have a CF in the minor leagues that looks like they will be able to replace Jackson’s production, and they would be securing one of the more emerging talents in baseball for the next five years.

I’m typically bad at throwing out contract numbers, but I would have to imagine an extension in the five year 60-70 million dollar range would be fair. The first two years would be a bit on the cheaper end, approximately twenty million or so, and then would get larger in the free agent years.

What do you all think an Austin Jackson extension should look like? Or should the Tigers even extend him at all?

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Tags: Austin Jackson Detroit Tigers

  • The Baby Brain

    Yes I definitely think he should be extended — for every reason you pointed out above. Was a nice breakdown of his value and emergence as a solid contact hitter. He’s made the perfect adjustments to fine tune his game…the cut down on Ks is huge. I agree Miggy will be gone after 2015, possibly traded before then and same with Scherzer. With Sanchez in the fold and Castellanos marinating in AAA, those are 2 positions where the losses can be (somewhat) absorbed. Losing AJax cannot. Good article

    • John Verburg

      I don’t think Tigers fans should be surprised, especially if a World Series is delivered this year to see Cabrera and/or guys like Fister or Scherzer traded to replenish some young talent. If they don’t win, and Ilitch is still alive and kicking, they probably maintain status quo for 2014.

    • John Verburg

      Thanks for the kind words about the article by the way.

  • TheBigNice

    In complete agreement in an extension. What Jackson brings, for all the reasons you stated, is not easily replaced. The rate at which he seems to be improving is amazing, really. Great player, maybe my favorite current Tiger.

    • John Verburg

      I thought he would improve, but it really is astounding how good he has been. Should of been an All Star last year, I think he makes it this year. Give some kudos to Lloyd and A.J. for getting rid of that poorly timed leg kick. Since then, he has been a line drive machine.

  • Nick S

    I believe his agent is Scott Boras(Scherzer’s as well), that will make it hard to extend him.

    • John Verburg

      I don’t believe that. The Tigers could explain to Mr. Boras that they have a very good working relationship, and have helped his agency more than once.

  • Tim OConnor

    I was devastated when they traded Curtis Granderson. Now? Yeah, not so much …

  • http://www.LambertKlein.com Lambert Klein

    Jackson is the one player they have to keep. He’s the most important Tiger right now.