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Cubs Mon Mar 26 2012

Cubs Roster Politics Keep Jackson Down -- For Now

Cubs_200.pngNo player likes to begin the season in the minors, but it's part of the game. Sometimes a player is overmatched and needs another year or two watching professional breaking balls, or in other cases it's a specific defensive skill that needs to be honed before they get the call.

When the Cubs met with Brett Jackson last week, the message was probably was as simple as, "Keep working hard and have your cell phone close."

It's unusual for a player like Jackson, a guy the team views as the future of the franchise, to get sent to the minors on a team that could maybe win 80 games if everything broke right. But those are the cards that former GM Jim Hendry dealt the team.

Jackson can handle any of the outfield positions defensively (including his natural centerfield), and while showing a patient eye in the box, his strikeout rate (138 K's in 512 plate appearances) leaves something to be desired. Those however, aren't skills that normally hold a player back from getting an everyday spot in the big leagues.

Instead, Jackson received the red tag in his locker because Hendry made a couple of players unnecessarily rich.

Alfonso Soriano, better known as Soriano's Contract, is still owed $54 million over the next three, painfully agonizing years of a deal that opposing general managers regarded as ludicrous when it was signed. It's reached a point where most Cubs fans can't remember the last time the team reached the World Series, but can instantly rattle off the year Soriano's mega-deal expires. He's still as untradeable as ever.

Though Marlon Byrd isn't paid the king's ransom that Soriano is, the three-year, $15 million deal he inked before the 2010 season seemed awfully long for someone who had never received an everyday job at one position prior to that point in his career. With $6.5 million due to him this year, Jed Hoyer hopes a hot start will prompt a team looking to add a hitter in June or July to make a move.

One could argue that Hoyer himself blocked Jackson's path to the majors with the signing of David DeJesus, but the Cubs are trying to rebuild without looking abysmal in front of the home crowd at Wrigley Field. And a leadoff hitter who draws a walk is something the team has lacked for years.

For now, Jackson's job is simple. Keep hitting, catch everything, and answer any calls from a Chicago area code.

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