Seattle Mariners

Mariners trade center fielder Austin Jackson to Cubs

Center fielder Austin Jackson, failing to catch a ball hit by Brock Holt of the Red Sox in Boston on Aug. 14, was traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Chicago Cubs on Monday. Jackson, a pending free agent, used a recent hot surge to raise his season batting average to .272.
Center fielder Austin Jackson, failing to catch a ball hit by Brock Holt of the Red Sox in Boston on Aug. 14, was traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Chicago Cubs on Monday. Jackson, a pending free agent, used a recent hot surge to raise his season batting average to .272. The Associated Press

Center fielder Austin Jackson’s mostly disappointing year-plus run with the Seattle Mariners came to an end Monday when they traded him to the Chicago Cubs just prior to the deadline for clubs to set their postseason rosters.

The Mariners received a player to be named and the Cubs’ fourth-round international slot bonus of $211,100.

Jackson, 28, is a pending free agent and, with a current salary of $7.7 million, did not figure in the Mariners’ future plans.

“We would prefer to be buyers (rather) than sellers at this point,” interim general manager Jeff Kingston said. “But for us, at this point in time, it’s more about the future and looking ahead.”

The first and most immediate consequence of the trade is former shortstop Brad Miller will become the club’s regular center fielder. The Mariners appear committed to rookie Ketel Marte as their regular shortstop.

“We’d like to see quite a bit of (Miller in center field),” Kingston said. “At this point in time, it’s probably his best fit for this organization going forward. We think he has the components and that skill set to play out there.

“If he can play out there, it’s a huge asset to this organization moving forward.”

The Mariners acquired Jackson from Detroit on July 31, 2014 in a three-team trade that sent infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay.

That deal sought to provide the Mariners, then engaged in a postseason push, with a reliable leadoff hitter while filling a hole in center field. But he batted just .229 with a .267 on-base percentage in 54 games.

Jackson also struggled for much of this season before going on a 28 for 71 surge over the past 18 games. That pushed his average from .247 to .272.

The Cubs began looking for a right-handed-hitting outfielder after Jorge Soler recently suffered a strained left oblique. Soler isn’t expected to return before late September.

“It should be pretty fun,” Jackson said. “A good group of guys. A lot of young talent. It’ll be fun to go join a team with some potential in it.”

Clubs faced a 9 p.m. (PDT) deadline Monday to set their postseason rosters. Any player acquired after the deadline is ineligible to play in the postseason for his new team.

“Austin will go to the Cubs and help them down the stretch,” Kingston said. “We get some international slot money that will help Tim Kissner and his group go and sign some good young players that helps us for the future.”

Kissner is the Mariners’ director of international operations.

RUGGIANO TO DODGERS

Austin Jackson wasn’t the only outfielder traded by the Mariners prior to Monday’s deadline for clubs to set their postseason rosters.

They also sent Justin Ruggiano to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a cash transaction.

Ruggiano, 33, opened the season on the Mariners but was designated for assignment on June 4 after batting .214 with two homers and three RBIs in 36 games.

When he cleared waivers, Ruggiano accepted an outright assignment to Tacoma, where he batted .296 in 49 games with 10 homers and 29 RBIs.

The Mariners acquired Ruggiano on Dec. 17, 2014 from the Cubs in a trade for minor-league reliever Matt Brazis.

ROSTER EXPANSION

Reinforcements are coming.

The change of the calendar to September means clubs can expand their rosters from 25 to 40 players for the remainder of the season.

The Mariners are likely to add players in two waves — on Tuesday and Sept. 8, which is the day after Triple-A Tacoma completes it season.

“I’m not sure what we’ve got coming yet,” manager Lloyd McClendon said prior to Monday’s series opener against the Astros.

“I’ll sit down and finalize all of that with Jeff. There’s a chance we may have some guys here (Tuesday).”

Several players loom as strong possibilities to be part of the first wave:

▪ Outfielder Stefen Romero, 26, is batting .292 in 116 games with 17 homers and 79 RBIs. He’s hitting left-handed pitchers for a .314/.340/.529 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage).

▪ Utilityman Shawn O’Malley, 27, was in line for a promotion in early July before suffering a broken thumb. A switch-hitter, he is batting .293 in 91 games and has 10 hits in his past four games.

▪ Right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez, whom the Mariners obtained from the Yankees with outfielder Ramon Flores in the July 30 trade for outfielder Dustin Ackley. Ramirez, 25, has given up 13 runs in 13 innings at Tacoma.

▪ Right-handed reliever Tony Zych, who has 21 scoreless outings in 22 appearances since mid-June at Tacoma and Double-A Jackson. Zych, 25, spent the previous four seasons in the Cubs’ organization.

Neither O’Malley nor Zych are on the 40-man roster, but the Mariners have two openings after trading Jackson to the Cubs.

Other promotion possibilities include catcher Mike Zunino, shortstop Chris Taylor, outfielder James Jones, and pitchers Mike Montgomery, Danny Farquhar, Lucas Luetge and Tyler Olson.

Zunino and Montgomery can’t be recalled until after Tacoma’s season ends.

MONTERO CITED

Mired in a 2 for 31 slump, first baseman Jesus Montero can use a pick-me-up, and he got one Monday when he was picked to the all-Pacific Coast League team.

Montero, 25, received the honor in recognition for his performance in 93 games at Triple-A Tacoma. He bated .346 with 64 runs, 17 doubles, six triples, 16 homers and 75 RBIs.

The Rainiers player last selected to the team was catcher Rob Johnson in 2008.

MINOR AWARD

Double-A Jackson second baseman Tyler Bortnick was picked as the Southern League player of the week for Aug. 24-30 after batting .520 with 13 hits in 25 at-bats.

Bortnick, 28, also scored 10 runs and had two homers and nine RBIs.

The Mariners signed Bortnick in June after he batted .294 in 40 games for Lancaster in the independent Atlantic League. He spent the previous six seasons in the Tampa Bay and Arizona organizations.

MINOR DETAILS

Designated hitter Jose Leal hit a grand slam Sunday in helping Peoria roll to a 10-2 victory over the Angels in a quarterfinal game in the Arizona Rookie League playoffs.

The Mariners played the Cubs in Monday’s semifinal game with the winner advancing to Tuesday’s championship game against the White Sox/Royals winner.

Leal, 20, is a Venezuelan native who signed with the Mariners in 2011. He batted .260 in 45 regular-season games with two homers and 30 RBIs.

▪ Single-A Everett rallied Sunday for a 5-4 victory over Tri-City (Padres) and entered Monday with a four-game lead in the Northwest League North Division with six games remaining.

LOOKING BACK

It was 19 years ago Tuesday — Sept. 1, 1996 — that Alex Rodriguez borrowed a bat from Ken Griffey Jr. and hit a three-run homer against David Wells in a 5-1 victory at Baltimore.

Rodriguez needed to borrow a bat after his was confiscated following a protest by Orioles manager Davey Johnson. The move was a response to Mariners manager Lou Piniella protesting a bat used by Bobby Bonilla.

Both bats were later checked and cleared.

Rodriguez went 2 for 3 in the game, which raised his average to .376. He finished the season at .358 and won the only batting title of his 21-year career.

SHORT HOPS

Shortstop Marte received medical clearance to return to action Monday after leaving Saturday’s game because of a strained right hamstring. … Felix Hernandez will return to the rotation Saturday in Oakland. He was skipped Monday in his regular turn in the hope of avoiding fatigue in the closing weeks. … McClendon said lefty reliever Joe Beimel, who is recovering from shoulder inflammation, was “just OK” in a one-inning appearance Sunday for Tacoma in a rehab assignment. Beimel is scheduled to pitch again Tuesday and could be activated later in the week. … Catcher John Hicks turned 26 on Monday, two days after making his major-league debut and one day after getting his first major-league hit.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game series at 5:10 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Left-hander Roenis Elias (4-7, 4.20 ERA) will face Houston right-hander Scott Feldman (5-5, 3.75).

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

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