Transactional Analysis: Jones Heads to Motown
Jacque Jones takes his declining power to Detroit for a fresh start.
Jacque Jones, long rumoured on his way out of Chicago, has finally been dealt by the Cubs, heading to Detroit yesterday for utility man Omar Infante.
You may recall that Jones was almost dealt to the Marlins at the deadline last season, but it turned out that not making that deal was a wise move for the Cubs ” despite struggling through the worst power season of his career, Jones hit .332 after the break and was a key player in helping the Cubs get back to the playoffs.
Jones signed a three-year deal with the Cubs in 2006 for $16 million. He’s capable of playing all fields, but is best suited to handle either centre or right field. However, with Curtis Granderson and Magglio Ordonez in centre and right, respectively, for the Tigers, Jones will be asked to solve an ongoing problem in left field in Detroit.
As part of the deal, Chicago sent some cash to Detroit to help pay for the differences in salary (Jones makes $5 million; the arbitration-eligible Infante made just $1.3 million last year and likely won’t get much of a pay hike).
Let’s break this deal down by looking at the potential winners and losers here.
- Infante hasn’t done much since losing his full-time gig after 2004, the year he hit half of his 32 career homers. He has a big fan in former Tiger manager and current Cub bench coach Alan Trammell, so that won’t hurt his chances of getting PT. It’s reasonable to expect him to up his BA to around .280 or .290 in Wrigley, and a power spike may still be coming for the 26-year-old. He’ll take over the roving infield utility role in Chicago and will likely see plenty of action in the outfield as well.
- Felix Pie is the top internal candidate to take over CF in Chicago, although Sam Fuld and Ronny Cedeno are also possibilities. We know Pie can pick it in the field, but he was extremely unproductive offensively as a rookie, and he’ll be on a short leash with other in-house candidates ready to take away his job.
Of course, the real possibility exists that the Cubs will make a deal (Carl Crawford?) or push hard for Japanese free agent Kosuke Fukudome to fill Jones’ shoes. Prying Crawford away from the Rays won’t be cheap, expected to cost young starter Rich Hill and second base prospect Eric Patterson plus other prospects. As for Fukudome, a man many believe could be the next Ichiro Suzuki, the Cubs have long been rumoured to covet the lifetime .305 hitter and two-time Japanese batting champion. The 30-year-old flyhawk suffered through an injury-plagued 2007, but few doubt his ability to be an impact major leaguer.
- Jones heads from one of the top offensive parks in the game to a middling offensive ballpark. He managed just five homers last season, but Comerica Park, surprisingly, played almost identical to Wrigley last year as far as dingers goes. On the plus side, at least he’s escaped the wrath of the Wrigley not-so-friendly. It’s pretty clear he wasn’t happy in Chicago, being the target of boos and constant criticism by fans. I expect his BA to slide, but it’s hard to see him managing so few long balls again.
- Ryan Theriot emerged as a major revelation in Chicago last year, turning in a yeoman’s effort in a super-sub role. But he barely cracked the Mendoza line in September, so he could wind up losing plenty of PT to Infante. Theriot is really better suited to play second base, but Mark DeRosa owns that position for the Cubs.
- Marcus Thames and Ryan Raburn were expected to platoon in left for the Tigers, but that plan is out the window with the arrival of Jones. Thames is nothing more than an extra outfielder now, but Raburn may not be hurt by this move nearly as much. He won’t get as much action in the field, but expect him to pick up the at-bats and PT earmarked for Infante. Still, Raburn looked like a sleeper to me as a super sub type; now, I’ll have to rethink that.