Tigers bring in “baserunning consultant” to get Austin Jackson running more

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In an effort to get center fielder Austin Jackson to steal more bases the Tigers have brought Jeff Cox to spring training as a “baserunning consultant.”

Jim Leyland explained the plan to Tom Gage of the Detroit News:

I’m not being critical, because I don’t mean for it to be critical, but with Jackson, it’s been a confidence factor. What happens in general with players is that guys don’t want to get thrown out. They don’t want that embarrassment. …

But there are times you want to take that gamble, which means he should have a better feel for it. … I would [like Jackson to steal more bases]. That’s basically what we are saying. The better way to put it is that I would like him to steal more important bases. I’ve always said that to steal a base when everybody knows you’re going to try, that’s when you are a base stealer.

It’s not quite “Best Shape of His Life” territory as far as spring training cliches go, but wanting a speedy player to steal more bases is a very common plan for teams in February and March every year. Sometimes it happens, more often it doesn’t, and then everyone forgets about the whole thing by the time spring training rolls around the next year.

As for Jackson, he’s never really been an effective basestealer. Through three seasons in the majors he’s stolen 20 bases per 150 games while being successful just 75 percent of the time. Last year that included going 12-for-21, which is terrible. In the minors Jackson had a much better success rate, but hardly piled up big steal totals with 25 in 135 games at Triple-A and 19 in 131 games at Double-A.

Stealing more bases at a better rate would be nice for Jackson, but the much more important issue will be whether or not he can maintain last season’s .377 on-base percentage after getting on base at a .331 clip in his first two seasons.

Cardinals acquire Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins

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The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins. Craig Mish of Sirius XM was the first to report that the deal was done. Ozuna still has to take a physical.

There is no report yet about what the Cards had to give up to get Ozuna, but given that the Cards and Marlins put a deal together for Giancarlo Stanton, the sides certainly have discussed various Cards prospects recently.

Ozuna fills a major need for the Cardinals, who had serious weaknesses in the middle of the order in 2017. Last year their number three hitters hit a combined .246/.338/.425 and their cleanup hitters hit 270/.350/.444. Ozuna, 27, had a fantastic offensive year in 2017, hitting .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI in 159 games.

Ozuna made $3.5 million this past season and is due for arbitration this offseason. He is under contractual control through 2019.