After signing Chris Davis to a contract awarding him half the GDP of Baltimore, the Orioles seemingly don't have much money left to spend. Unfortunately, there are still two glaring needs on this team - another outfielder, and a starting pitcher. It's highly unlikely that we'll see the team go out and commit money and years to someone like Yoenis Cespedes, or even a Dexter Fowler. Instead, one option who could be had for a short, affordable deal is Austin Jackson.
First off, there's a reason Jackson could be had for such a small contract. After a promising start to his career, Jackson has tailed off considerably at the plate the past two seasons. From 2010-2013, Jackson hit .278/.344/.416, highlighted by a phenomenal 2012 season in which he hit .300/.377/.479 and was worth 5.4 fWAR. In 2014, Jackson struggled out of the gate, and after being traded to Seattle he struggled even worse - the end result was .256/.308/.347 batting line, the worst of his career. Last season he bounced back a bit, but not to the level he was playing at before his disastrous 2014 campaign. He was traded from the Mariners to the Cubs midseason and hit .267/.311/.385 on the year, good for a 94 wRC+.
Another issue - Jackson, a right-handed batter, has really struggled against right-handed pitching over the past few seasons. In both of the last two years his OPS was at least a hundred points higher against left-handers (.735 vs .622 in 2014, .770 vs. 657 in 2015). The way the O's roster looks right now, Jackson would be playing almost every day, and the majority of those days are against right-handed starters.
Now, some better news - Jackson is a good defensive player. His best year was 2011, when he was given credit for 29 defensive runs saved (DRS) and a UZR of 7.8. He's not quite that caliber of fielder these days, but he's still at least an average or slightly above average in center. Since he obviously wouldn't be playing center field for the O's, he'd likely be a well above average corner outfielder in Baltimore. The value of his defense is apparent when looking at his WAR last season - despite the below-average batting line, Fangraphs had him rated as a 2.3-win player.
Jackson is only 28, so it's not unreasonable to think he could bounce back at the plate. He may never hit like he did in 2012 again, but a league-average bat is definitely not out of the question. Even if he struggles and hits somewhere between his 2014 and 2015 numbers, that's still around a 1-1.5 win player based on his defense and his not-entirely-worthless bat. The O's could do (and have recently done) a lot worse than that. Because his floor is so low, I'd be more comfortable giving $8-10 million to someone like Jackson than another player, because his defense is a skill that's far less likely to just go away. Even in the worst-case scenario, he still provides something.
The ideal situation for Jackson would be as a platoon / fourth outfielder, with the O's signing or trading for someone else to play full-time in right field. Jackson could see the majority of his at-bats come against left-handed starters, and he could come off the bench as a defensive replacement or pinch runner when needed. With the left-handed Hyun-Soo Kim in the fold, that would be a great platoon situation to help Kim ease into his MLB career. Let's be real though - that's probably not going to happen. If the O's sign Jackson, he'll likely be the only outfielder they pick up the rest of the way. Even if that's true, it would be a good fit. Against lefties, he has the potential to be a very good player, and the O's could sure use someone who can actually hit left-handers. Sure, he would probably struggle against right-handed starters, but he'd be a good fielder and not a complete liability, unlike the parade of characters the Orioles used in the outfield last season. If I was Dan Duquette, and Jackson could be had for one year and something like $8-9 million, I'd be tempted to pull the trigger.