Update: February 7th
After previously reporting on Jay Jackson and his deal with the Minnesota Twins, here’s an official update, per source.
Original Post: There are few players in today’s game of baseball more well-traveled than Jay Jackson. The right-hander has made appearances all over the world across a professional career that began all the way back in 2008.
Initially a ninth-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs, Jackson has since spent time in nine different MLB organizations and two clubs in NPB over in Japan.
On Sunday evening, a source confirmed to Just Baseball that Jackson signed a big league contract with the Minnesota Twins. The financials have not been confirmed yet, but he’s expected to receive upwards of $1.2 million with a 2025 team option and a buyout if that option is not exercised.
The grizzled veteran had 6 teams reaching out early in the offseason but had been waiting suitors out to see where a guaranteed, MLB deal would come from.
By December, that number was up to around 12 teams. That’s nearly half the league. Those teams included, but were not limited to, the Tigers, Angels, Cubs, Guardians, Marlins, Mets and Orioles, a source says.
The Ultimate Underdog
Last year, Jackson spent the entirety of the season as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He became a fan favorite thanks to his background as an underdog and keen ability to come through in the clutch in big moments.
In July, Jackson and his fiancée, Sam Bautista, welcomed their son JR into the world prematurely. His due date was not initially until October, so Jackson and Bautista had to spend the next few months with the little one in the NICU. Whenever the Blue Jays had a day off, Jackson would fly to join JR and Sam in the hospital.
As of December, JR is home, happy and healthy. Following along with Jackson and his family was a huge part of Blue Jays fans’ love for the player they saw on the mound. It did not go unnoticed that he was halfway across the country giving it all for their team while his family stuck it out in the hospital.
All told, Jackson was able to piece together 25 big league appearances in 2023, posting a 2.12 ERA and 202 ERA+ across 29.2 innings of work. Thanks to a special clause in his contract with the Jays, he became a free agent at season’s end.
While the Blue Jays were not one of the teams making a significant push to re-sign Jackson, a source says that they had “checked in a few times” but never made an official offer.
What Jackson Brings to the Twins
On the field, the 36-year-old has shown the ability to go multiple innings and typically thrives in mid-to-low leverage situations. He made two outings in a three-day stretch last year against the always-dangerous Dodgers, going 3.2 innings while allowing just one hit and striking out five.
Jackson relies heavily on a two-pitch mix. His mid-80s slider led the way with a 60% usage rate in 2023. The pitch was highly effective, allowing only a .116 opponent’s batting average and a PLUS% over 67%. His low-to-mid-90s four-seam fastball is the other consistent offering in his repertoire.
Since he’s out of options, Jackson has an automatic leg up on the competition heading into spring training. He won’t be the closer and may not get many high-leverage outings, but his big league deal provides security. Last year, he was shuttled back and forth between the majors and minors many times, but that is not likely to happen in 2024.
Jackson joins Justin Topa and Anthony DeSclafani as the Twins’ newest pitching additions. Topa is one of three relievers in the club’s projected bullpen (per Roster Resource) with minor league options.
Off the field, Jackson is known for his smile and positive attitude. He uses his social media accounts, primarily Instagram, to spread positivity and his popular slogan, “In smiles we trust.”
Despite the fact that he’s bounced all around the world, Jackson told me in the past that he plans to play until teams are no longer interested. The fact that he turned his performance last year into a guaranteed, big league contract says a lot about his resilience.