Monday, March 19, 2007

moving jacque

it hasn't been a secret that jacque jones wants out of chicago. following some perceived rough treatment at wrigley last year, jones requested a move, and by many reports general manager jim hendry has made some attempts to accomodate him.

word is around that hendry is still actively seeking to make a deal.

Jacque Jones, Cubs. He had a decent first year with the Cubs, hitting 27 homers, yet he's mediocre defensively, and the Cubs would like to create more playing time for youngster Matt Murton and former Met Cliff Floyd. Jones, with poor on-base and defensive skills, is not quite in demand. As one official from an American League team put it, the Cubs are "continuing to try to foist Jacque Jones off on someone." Ouch.

this writer once exclaimed that jones' contract was such a boondoggle as to be untradeable, but the free agent market of 2006-7 put an end to that as much as jones' better-than-average year. indeed, jacque is not only tradeable but the cubs may even be reasonably situated to make such a trade. while making a bigger hole for the oft-injured floyd seems folly, alfonso soriano could as easily slide over to right from his planned adventure in center as he is probably going to be a subpar defensive outfielder in either place. and that move could make room for much-touted felix pie to take over center on the heels of a spring in which he has performed reasonably well.

pie has in 40 spring at-bats posted a 350/409/375 line -- but most importantly struck out just four times. strikeouts have been of grave concern to many pie watchers, as he has fanned 438 times in 1945 career minor league at-bats against just 164 walks -- a 2.7 k:bb ratio and a strikeout every 4.4 ab. if anything, pie is likely to fan more often in the majors. with a career .812 ops, he hasn't as a player demonstrated the kind of power that will justify that sort of profligacy -- a point reinforced by his notching just one extra-base hit in arizona.

perhaps nothing great is to be expected of pie -- his power is limited, he is likely to strike out often and won't draw anything like the walks he should to get on base and exploit his speed. he almost certainly wouldn't be able to fill even jacque's shoes with the bat, and he is probably not yet a truly good defensive outfielder regardless of what he may become (though he would certainly be the best defensive outfielder on this club). but he is the cubs' most heralded prospect and he will get his chance with the cubs sooner or later. perhaps the time is now.

on the other hand, it seems clear that the cubs have weaknesses to be filled as well.

jon lieber is on the block in philadelphia, though it isn't at all clear that jacque would be enough to obtain him -- nor would the phillies seem to have an outfield vacancy yet. but pat gillick is also trying to move centerfielder aaron rowand for bullpen help -- is it possible that gillick could create a spot for jacque by moving rowand? indeed, could lieber and rowand both return to chicago in return for jacque and younger cub arms from a pool of angel guzman, neal cotts, will ohman, roberto novoa, michael wuertz and others? at this point a philly starter instead looks to be headed to the pen, but such a deal is at least within the realm of speculation even if the cubs feel they have settled the back of their rotation with jason marquis, rich hill and wade miller.

the other trouble spot may be middle infield, where this page has noted the return of ronny cedeno into the roster mix as a sign that not all is well with cesar izturis and his troublesome hamstrings. jacque would probably be fuel enough for a deal to solidify shortstop, but the speculative question then becomes one of finding a partner. ken rosenthal has speculated that the cubs are shopping for someone who would effectively put cedeno in the minors permanently, and mlbtraderumors has further mentioned speculations on the braves' yunel escobar, martin prado and chris woodward. jacque could platoon in right with jeff francoeur, who posted a 248/278/424 line vs rhp last season. escobar was the braves' second-rounder in 2005, has hit well this spring and is a reasonable if excessive bounty, if the braves are willing to move him. a journeyman like woodward seems somewhat less appropriate a counterweight.

rosenthal has also mentioned clint barmes in the same breath as the cubs. barmes was one of the only position players to be a greater disaster than cedeno in 2006, and he has consistently failed to impress this writer. but it is hard to envision a role for jacque on a team with brad hawpe and matt holliday in the corners -- and that hugely demanding centerfield to patrol at coors.

the marlins' robert andino has also been mentioned, but in exchange for angel pagan. like woodward but moreso, andino seems too light to balance jacque.

perhaps none of the aforementioned options are offensively exciting, but then jacque isn't much of a commodity -- a highly questionable defensive outfielder on the decline at 32 and fit only for a platoon, coming also with a $6mm pricetag for each of 2007 and 2008. regardless of what many cub fans may want or believe him to be, jacque simply isn't worth a whole lot in trade. and if even the defensively-average woodward can keep cedeno from getting 250 at-bats and committing 15 errors while spelling izturis at short, he may be what the cubs need.

No comments: