Outfielder Drew Stubbs performed as expected last year, hitting .233/.305/.360 with 21 doubles, a pair of triples, 10 homeruns and 17 stolen bases while playing solid-average defense in center and right fields. Stubbs, acquired in the three-team deal involving Arizona and Cincinnati last offseason, totaled about one win above replacement.
It’s fine production for a role/platoon player, especially given his salary last season: $2,850,000. But it’s quite replaceable too.
And as Stubbs enters his first go-round in arbitration, and will likely be a recipient of a salary approaching $4 million, it’s time for the Indians to get a little creative. Enter Cubs former top prospect Brett Jackson.
Before the season I ranked Jackson as the Cubs’ #9 prospect, writing at the time: “It will all come down to his ability to put the ball in play. Prior to this Triple-A numbers, Jackson’s career K-rate was still fairly high, at 27%. He could quite possibly become Chicago’s version of Drew Stubbs.”
But the Cubs erred.
Instead of realizing what Brett Jackson is, they were looking at what the tools said he could be. They were wrong, and Jackson wasn’t – or isn’t – going to be able to overcome his flaws.
Chicago reportedly reworked Jackson’s swing last season, and he, of course, tanked. Split across Class AA and Class AAA, the former top prospect hit .210/.296/.330 and was approximately 23% below the league average on offense.
Oh, from 2009 to 2012 Jackson posted OPSs north of .800.
Prior to last offseason’s rework, Jackson’s minor league production more or less paralleled that of Stubbs’ MLB numbers.
Both players can play any outfield position, have 15+ HR potential, 20-SB potential, and swing-and-miss an enormous amount of time. The two separating factors: money and handedness. Stubbs bats righty and Jackson hits lefty. And with the Tribe’s better balanced lineup, the need for a bench bat that can handle southpaws isn’t that pressing.
Look, now’s the time for the Indians to swoop in and buy-low on Jackson. The tools are still there. Cleveland just needs to recognize that Jackson isn’t going to be the superstar (wrongly) projected early in his career. Instead, he’s Drew Stubbs, a solid, but flawed role player.