Wednesday, December 21

Jones-ing for a real RF


This definitely shook the cobwebs off an otherwise turgid week of Cubs news, as the team announced the signing of bells-and-whistles FA Jacque Jones to a 3-year, $16 million deal in Chi-town.

What are we thinking?

Jacque Jones is:

1. In decline
Despite career numbers of .279 BA/.327 OBP/.782 OPS, Jones has posted two mediocre seasons back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.

2002: .300/.341/.852
2003: .304/.333/.797
2004: .254/.315/.742
2005: .249/.319/.757

It's a troubling drop-off between '03 and '04, and I worry greatly about what sort of offense he is likely to provide somewhere in the middle of the lineup. I cannot imagine him towards the top of the batting order given low SB totals and generally average speed.

2. A touch of clutch
One of his wild-card features is his hitting in clutch situation. Despite those low BA stats over the past 2 seasons, he has a reasonable .281 BA with RISPs, and a .275 mark with 2-out RISPs. Those numbers are down slightly in '04 and '05, but nevertheless, I'd take Jones over Burnitz for contact hitting and putting the ball in play during moments with runners on and time running out.

3. Reasonable in the Field
4 errors in 2005 show that his defense is still where it needs to be. It might take him a while to adjust to the wind and swirl at Wrigley, but he's a marginal upgrade over Burnitz out there.


I am still a little bitter about this deal. We were supposed to be looking for another offensive threat to not only augment the power of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, but someone who could provide yet another warm body on base (along with Pierre, hopefully) for the deadly duo to convert into runs.

The salary size (it seems small, but there's a reason the Twins weren't even thinking of shelling out close to this) is also disconcerting, because we have a number of big names up for arbitration and free agency looming around the corner (ARam, DLee, Zambrano I think, off the top of my head) and this money is now clogged up in a declining outfielder.

As it stands, the starting lineup seems to be complete:

C Barrett
1B Lee
2B Walker
SS Cedeno
3B Ramirez
LF Murton
CF Pierre
RF J. Jones

I worry about that as it looks, but it's still way too early to tell. We've lost some years on our starting lineup, but we've gained unnecessary salary in shaky players. Regardless, we can't fight Hendry saying that he hasn't addressed a need, but it will be some time before we can tell if that need has truly been addressed.


At 2:48 AM, Blogger Jim said...

This is do or die for Hendry and Dusty. Their contracts run out at the end of the next year. They're not worried about tying money up for the future. If the team doesn't come up big in '06, this duo will be resume shopping.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger JT said...

Jim, I couldn't agree more. These two have been tinkling and tweaking the roster for years now, trying to find that World Series-winning squad. It's time to see the fruits of those labours, but I'm skeptical as to whether this current assortment can improve on last year.

As always, it's way too early to tell, but hey, we have to keep going.

I forgot to write something a while ago in response to your comments on the Cardinals. What the heck is going on down there with that roster? I'll get onto that as soon as a I can.

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous lazlo said...

One prediction I feel fairly comfortable making is that Murton as full-time left fielder will be more productive than the Hollandsworth-Dubois-Gerut-Lawton system we had last year. It will be interesting to see what the Cubs do now that they have Murton, Pierre, Jones, Patterson, Hairston, and Mabry to all play outfield. Who will be traded or sent to the minors? I think most people would expect it to be Corey, but will the club try to deal him right now, even though he has no trade value, let him play in the minors and then trade him, or give him a year in the minors to see if he can get back to form since Pierre has only 1 year left on contract and Pie does not yet seem to be ready?

I know a lot of people don't feel good about this team, but here's the bottom line. 5 healthy starting pitchers (out of our 6) will lead this team to a winning season, supported by a decent bull pen (it looks like), and some offense from Lee and Ramirez and probably Pierre. Anything else is gravy. However, the central division ought to be fairly close this year, between Houston, St. Louis, the Cubs, and maybe the Brewers.

Who's had the most active offseason in MLB? The Dodgers. Watch out for them.They just got Brett Tomko, too.

At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Santa Claus said...

Happy Holidays, Dude! And lay off the sauce--Your Pal, Santa!

At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Carlos Zambrano in 2006- 20+ wins, Cy Young candidate, 2 HR!

Mark Prior- 15+ Wins, possibly contending with CZ for Cy Young.

Kerry Wood- 12+ Wins, winning record, LOADS of Ks.

Glendon Rusch- Swing man, with a winning record.

Jerome Williams- 8+ Wins, winning record.

Greg Maddux- 15+ Wins.

Derreck Lee- .300 avg., 40+ HR, 100+ RBIs.

Matt Murton- .300 avg., 12-20 HR.

Ronny Cedeno- .300 avg., 5-10 HR.

These are my predictions. It's time to post something again! I have predictions for other guys, but they are not things I feel as strongly about. All of these guys have been criticized online, here or elsewhere, except maybe Zambrano, who is simply under-appreciated.

Am I completely off the mark? Will 70-80 wins from the starting rotation be enough? That most likely means he have to pick up 10-25 in the bullpen or from the swingman, is that unreasonable?

At 7:50 PM, Blogger JT said...

Lazlo, there will be some posts soon. I'm stil celebrating the departure of Corey Patterson, but soon I'll cobble something together.

At 7:14 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Corey Patterson wins AL Batting title, Baltimore forgives Chicago for Sammy debacle.

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Why would you celebrate the fact that Jim Hendry gave away Patterson? Guaranteed he would've had more trade value if we would've even just played him in AAA till the trade deadline. Neither of the guys we got really show any indication of being able to play over possibly the AA level. Corey proved he could play at at least the AAA level. Yes, it will save us some money, but are the Cubs going to do anything with it? This trade is in no way helping win a title this year, and I personally doubt either of these guys will ever get as far as Corey did, and personally I think if anyone ever decides that they are going to sacrifice Corey's power for a proper swing and more contact he will become a good hitter. He's already a great outfielder. I think the change of scenery will help Corey, and I would not at all be surprised for his offense to improve drastically next year. I would be surprised to see either minor leaguer in the major leagues, and certainly not inside of three years.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger JT said...

Here we go. We're back to the tooth-and-nail of it!

Corey Patterson is garbage. I'm tired of hearing this about him being proven at AAA and whatever else. His presence on the team is a drain, because if he's not performing, all the questions and speculation surrounding him (not to mention the fact that if he were still in Cubbie blue, he would be starting somehow as Dusty is stubborn about these things) will distract from what could otherwise be a reasonable season.

Sometimes, you gotta know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em (excuse the cliche), and Corey is the classic example of someone who could benefit himself and his old ballclub in finding a new home. I don't give two shits what he does in Baltimore. Let him win an AL MVP, because after all, what does that prove? Do you think he would do the same thing in Chicago as he would in Baltimore? Do things really happen that way? Yeah, Corey miraculously finds his swing underneath a crab pot in the Baltimore bay. Not only that, but Kerry Wood wins 24 games and I take a running jump off Navy Pier.

It's all conjecture at this point from all of us, and as for Corey, let him do his thing elsewhere. Let's stop living in the past, and as for these guys we got in exchange, I don't think any of us know enough about them to say that they might not be in the majors within the next three years. We should be glad we got anything for him, because don't forget, CP's getting a damn good salary for a guy hitting sub-.215 for a full season.

Heck, I wish I had the chance to do that.

And back to Baltimore for a second, that ballclub has more OFs than a thousand little league teams.

Jeff Conine, Luis Matos, Jay Gibbons, David Newhan, Corey Patterson.

My prediction: Corey ends up lost in that platoon of .250-ish hitters that make up that OF. Sosa's discussing a one-year deal with the Nationals, so possibly kiss that one goodbye.

And is noone talking about Ronny Cedeno? He just finished the Winter League season in Venezuela batting .405 (or something like that), leading the league. How's about that for a little spark? Murton did well, and I'm still not sold on Jones, but if RC can play like that, we still have some flexibility to make some moves before spring training begins. I hear Crazy Man Barry Zito's name cropping up all over the place.

I'll leave it with a quote from yr last comment:
"...personally I think if anyone ever decides that they are going to sacrifice Corey's power for a proper swing and more contact he will become a good hitter..."

It hasn't happened in years, and I doubt it will ever happen. That's what that month in Iowa was for, with a "real" hitting coach. When he came back, it was right back to old ways.

Good luck in Maryland, Corey.

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

I have to disagree. Neither of us are insiders, so we're both just giving the impression we get from what information is available to us, and here's the impression I get: Corey was sent to the minors to "revamp" his swing. What did this mean? Move your front foot 4 inches forward and change where you hold your hands. That's not a change. Why did they do this? I think the Cubs organization was still hoping Corey was a home run hitter. Personally, I don't think anyone on our team should be encouraged to hit home runs except Aramis Ramirez and Derreck Lee. Even after the season was over and Corey went to Arizona to work on his swing the hitting coach there said he was amazed with how much bat speed and leverage Corey could create with his little body. So why did Corey never stop swinging for the fences? I don't think anyone ever really told him to. I think they kept saying, "we think Corey needs to cut down on the strike outs." And in the same breath they'd say, "we think Corey could hit 25 home runs every season." Now, I am not saying his swing would've changed with the Cubs. I think the organization was more willing to give up on the player than on the power, and that is why he will be playing in Baltimore next year. Also, Corey would not be an drain on the team playing in AAA, and lets say he went to AAA for half a season and hit .290 there (about what he did when he was there last) and had a swing that even looked a little bit different. Suddenly you're not trading a guy who hit .215 with power in the majors, you're trading a guy who hit .290 with power in AAA. That ought to get you a little more in return. So, this is why I am angry about the Corey Patterson trade.

Yes, Cedeno looks like he can do great things. I think his average was .356 in venezuela, but that's still extremely high. However, if you check other blogs people are still talking about how Neifi should be the starting short stop, and how if you play Cedeno that means you've given up on the season. My prediction for Cedeno still stand because I really believe he can do those things, and also I think they are worth making because there is a faction of Cubs fans who don't think he's ready yet. My biggest worry with Murton is that the organization decides to tell Murton they think he his a homerun hitter. I think the home runs are going to come with that guy, but don't expect more than 20 or 25. If you start asking to hit homeruns and he starts TRYING, the batting average is going to fall. I'm not sold on Jones yet either. Really, I won't be until he proves himself. But overall, I'd say the team is in no way worse now than it was at the same time last year, and before all the injuries last year a lot people were predicting the Cubs would be either division or wild card winners. Add to that the fact that the Cards look to be at least a little bit weaker (or rather less good) than they were last year, I'd say the Cubs have a decent shot, if they have fewer injuries. At this point we could handle some injuries in the outfielder (except Juan Pierre), but infield would be trouble, as would any injury to Zambrano, Prior, Maddux or Rusch. Bullpen has to stay healthy too, considerring all the money we spent on them. Those guys are gonna get used a lot.

As for Barry Zito, I'm for it, depending on what we have to give up, of course. We're short on infielders, so if we send them Todd Walker we either need an infielder in return or we'll be using Neifi. I'm not sure what Oakland needs anyway though.

Now I'll catch my breath and say, I will remain angry over trading Corey for a while at least. After all, many Cubs fans are still angry over the Lou Brock trade. Of course, if Jim and I are anywhere near right on what we think Corey is capable of, there really won't be too much satisfaction in it for me. I don't really want to see anyone win a batting title for the O's, just as I don't really want to see Kyle Farnsworth post a sub 2.0 ERA for the Yankees.

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Okay JT, it's time to update now. We just got a good pickup. An additional starting pitcher (now we've got 7 on the roster who are of Major League calibur, counting Rusch and Williams) for $1 million, or $2 million if he makes enough starts. Welcome, Wade Miller.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Why is the shortest month of the year so long?!!


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