DETROIT -- The Tigers, with their offseason pursestrings shortened, have spent the winter getting the band back together. Their lone Major League signing so far has been the return of catcher Alex Avila. Their Minor League deals have included reunions with former Tigers Omar Infante and Collin Balester as well as A.J. Achter's homecoming.
As general manager Al Avila tries to fill a void in center field, and as Austin Jackson looks to rekindle his career following knee surgery -- there's a chance for the offseason reunions to continue.
As Hot Stove predictions go, it's not exactly bold. It barely justifies a change in font, really. But when the luxury tax has been the most powerful force behind the Tigers' deals, it's the kind of upside move the Tigers arguably need to make to get one more season in contention before J.D. Martinez and others hit free agency next year.
As chronicled last week, the Tigers have been left to scour the market for low-cost center-field options after finding unappealing trade scenarios for big-name veterans. While Detroit could still make a deal in a smaller package, possibly for Justin Wilson if the relief market creates an opportunity, the most likely scenario is a free-agent stopgap on a short-term, low-cost contract.
The Tigers have had a revolving door in center since Jackson held down the spot from 2010 until his trade to Seattle in the '14 David Price deal. Jackson spent a year and a half with the Mariners until signing this past winter with the White Sox. He was batting .254 (46-for-181) with 12 doubles and 18 RBIs when a torn meniscus in his left knee ended his season in June.
Recovery took longer than expected, but the goal is a completely healthy meniscus and a return to full strength and agility. Jackson said last week that workouts are going well. That said, he might need a season to prove he's back -- and still capable of making an all-around impact in center.
No team knows Jackson's capabilities better than the Tigers, on the field as well as in the clubhouse. They could sign any number of alternatives on the market, but they would have more confidence in what they're getting with Jackson than any other club could. They haven't had serious discussions yet, but with Spring Training approaching, the fit arguably makes too much sense to pass up.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.