I'm glad I published my post about left field candidates when I did, because it was about a half hour away from becoming officially irrelevant. Confirming the rumors that were leaking out late this morning (and ticking a clock over my head), the Detroit Tigers have indeed acquired outfielder Jacque Jones from the Chicago Cubs for infielder Omar Infante.
The question is whether Jones will be expected to be the Tigers' full-time left fielder or if he'll be the left-hand side of a platoon with Marcus Thames. He seems ideally suited for that, but $5.5 million is a pretty hefty price tag for a platoon player. But the Cubs will reportedly pay part of that salary, which should indicate how much they wanted to make this deal. Also giving the Tigers more value for their dollar (presumably) is Jones' ability to play all three outfield spots, so he can spell Curtis Granderson in center or Magglio Ordonez in right.
Last season with the Cubs, Jones hit .285/.335/.400 with five home runs and 66 RBI in 453 at-bats. Defensively, his zone rating in left field was .667, but that was just for two games. In right field, his RZR was .938, and .925 in center, where he played the majority of his innings. His best year was 2002, during which he hit .300/.341/.511 with 27 homers and 85 RBI with the Minnesota Twins.
As I said to Mike McClary over IM when the deal was close to done, I might be delusional, but I always thought Omar Infante was a good player who never seemed to get a decent shot in Detroit. Obviously, the Tigers' braintrust knows more than I do, but at times, Infante looked as if he could be a starting-caliber player for the team. And if not that, then certainly an extremely valuable utility player.
But Jim Leyland never seemed to think much of his defense (otherwise, why were Neifi Perez and Ramon Santiago on the team?), and though Infante showed some occasional pop with the bat (16 home runs in 2004), he could never put together a consistent string of success at the plate. I don't know if the Cubs are the right team for him, but Infante might benefit from the proverbial change of scenery. (And I'll have to scrap another set of t-shirts at the BYB Gear store.)
So how are you feeling about this one? Was getting a serviceable left fielder for a player who may not have even been on next season's roster a good move? Or does Jones's salary and production concern you? And what about Dave Dombrowski making two major off-season moves before baseball's winter meetings? Might he have jumped a bit too soon or is it better perhaps to go into those meetings totally focused on getting some bullpen help?
For what it's worth, the Cubs fans don't seem to like this deal. Check out what they're saying at Bleed Cubbie Blue.
[updated at 3:00 p.m.]