GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With a hole to fill in center field and everyday at-bats to offer, the Indians remained in contact with outfielder Austin Jackson over the past couple weeks. In the end, Jackson preferred to sign with the White Sox.
Jackson agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $5 million with Chicago on Sunday and is expected to be the regular center fielder for the South Siders this season. Per multiple sources, the Indians were offering a salary in a similiar range as the White Sox, but it would have taken even more to lure him away from the White Sox.
With Jackson no longer on the board, Cleveland's competition for outfield jobs remains wide open.
"We have a handful of outfielders here in camp," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday morning. "We don't really quite know yet who will be going with us [for Opening Day]. ... You get to see them for six or seven weeks and try to evaluate, 'OK, where can they help us? Can they help us now? Can they help us down the road?' All of those things, we'll try to answer."
Heading into Spring Training, the Indians knew that they would likely be without left fielder Michael Brantley come Opening Day, considering he underwent right shoulder surgery in November. Cleveland was dealt an unexpected blow, however, when center fielder Abraham Almonte received an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
The Indians were willing to offer everyday at-bats to the defensively-sound Jackson, even though his past two seasons paint a picture of him more as a platoon player vs. left-handed pitching. Jackson, who is a client of agent Scott Boras, probably would have required a salary closer to the $7.7 million he earned in 2015 in order to convince him to choose Cleveland over Chicago.
The only perceived locks for jobs appear to be veteran Rajai Davis, who signed a one-year deal with the Tribe over the winter and can handle left or center field. Coming off a breakout showing as a converted outfielder, Lonnie Chisenhall projects to garner the bulk of the playing time in right field. Brantley -- on pace to begin taking batting practice on the field by the end of the week -- could return at some point in April, barring any setbacks.
The Indians will continue to look at prospect Tyler Naquin as a possibility for center field, along with Collin Cowgill and Will Venable. Joey Butler, James Ramsey, Zach Walters, Shane Robinson, Robbie Grossman and Michael Choice also are getting a look this spring. Even utility man Jose Ramirez is expected to see some action in the outfield during Cactus League play.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.