Austin Jackson will man center field for the San Francisco Giants, according to media reports. (Courtesy Keith Allison/Flickr)

Austin Jackson will man center field for the San Francisco Giants, according to media reports. (Courtesy Keith Allison/Flickr)

Giants reportedly add center fielder Austin Jackson for a bargain

San Francisco Giants general manager Bobby Evans said on Friday that landing a center fielder was the team’s top priority. He took care of that on Monday by adding Austin Jackson, according to Jon Heyman.

The defensive specialist will get $6 million for the next two seasons. He could make as much as $8.5 million through incentives.

Last season, Jackson hit .318/.387/.482 for the Cleveland Indians. He was worth 1.9 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

RELATED: By going older, Giants are committed to zig while rivals zag

Jackson was expected to get much more in the open market, but this has been a different kind of free agency period.

The Giants will get the kind of player they wanted: A veteran who can play solid defense every day but isn’t so good (or expensive) he’ll block Steven Duggar from making an impact on the major-league squad when he’s ready.

It could also open up opportunities for a platoon in center field if Jackson can stay hot against left-handed pitchers in 2018. Last season, he hit .325/.440/.574 in 141 plate appearances against southpaws. But fans should beware the small-sample-size bias in those statistics, because Jackson’s career numbers are much worse: He’s .267/.343/.404 over his career against lefties. 

The majority of Jackson’s at-bats have come from the leadoff spot. Projected starting lineup for the Giants on Opening Day:

  1. Jackson, 8
  2. Joe Panik, 4
  3. Andrew McCutchen, 9
  4. Evan Longoria, 5
  5. Buster Posey, 2
  6. Brandon Belt, 3
  7. Brandon Crawford, 6
  8. Hunter Pence, 8
  9. Madison Bumgarner, 1

jpalmer@sfexaminer.comAustin JacksonBobby EvansMLBSan Francisco Giants

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