Monday, November 12, 2007

Cubs deal Jones for Infante

This is a surprising one.

I left the 2007 season counting on Jones to be one of the starting three outfielders for the 2008 season. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm not ready to hand Felix Pie 150 starts yet, but I thought we were outfielder short before shipping Jacque Jones to Detroit.

The arrival of Omar Infante is also confusing. I thought we learned our lesson years ago: there is such a thing as too many second basemen. Nonetheless, Infante will almost certainly enter the mix with DeRosa, Theriot, and Fontenot for a good chunk of playing time. There are reports that the club wants to turn Theriot back into the role player that he is. I don't have a problem with that, as long as we have a more capable option at short; Infante is not. There's also talk about taking the second baseman's job away from Mark DeRosa. That would be a mistake, unless we give him a starting role in the outfield (remember, he's an outfielder by trade). Right now, DeRosa's the closest thing to a #5 hitter we've got.

The Cubs seemed to have relied a large part on the Japanese market of players this year. By moving Dempster into the rotation, the Cubs intensified their efforts to land Hideki Iwase, the top closer in Japan. Those efforts failed as Iwase as announced he will return in Japan. Now, we've practically backed ourselves into corner with the trade of Jones. I almost feel like "trading" Jones for Fukudome would be a lateral move; even though Fukudome has more patience and is a consistent doubles hitter, Jones excels defensively and has the capability of clubbing 25 homers. But, now we need to struggle with five other Major League teams and a handful of Japanese teams to earn the services of Fukudome and thereby break even. The good news is that we don't need Fukudome specifically; there are other outfielders like Cameron and Rowand (I don't want Jones or Hunter) available on the market, but I would've liked to have seen us add an outfielder while hanging onto Jones. Before, it would've been nice to get one of them; now, we need another outfielder.

In 2007, the club seemed to benefit from the trades of Michael Barrett and Cesar Izturis. I wondered if the trade of Barrett was addition by subtraction, while the Izturis trade definitely was. Some may think that Jones is a similar case but I really disagree. He showed me a lot in the second half and actually managed to finish the year at a .285 clip! My confidence in him was very similar to what I thought about him at this point last year: maybe not one of the best outfielders, but he brings enough to put up with the occasional mistake.

Also, many believed that our interest in free-agent infielder Kazuo Matsui was an effort to try to lure the Japanese players to our team. Now, it turns out that we were legitimately searching for another middle infielder. Well, Infante's that guy; the one good thing that might come from adding Infante is that we won't mess around with Matsui anymore.

Lee wins Glove: Ignorant Cubs fans now have another piece of "evidence" to support the so-called superstar first baseman. Despite committing seven errors, Derrek Lee inexplicably won the Gold Glove over Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, and 13 others. Helton committed only 2 errors and ended up with a .999 fielding percentage while the Fielding Bible ranked Pujols miles ahead of everyone else defensively.

Nonetheless, I digress. Derrek Lee is a Cub and I'm happy for him, I guess.

Dempster rounds off rotation: I wanted a competent fifth starter heading into Spring Training, so that we wouldn't have to count on Marshall, Gallagher, or Hart to step up as the fifth starter and if Dempster can pitch to what the Cubs' front office hopes he is capable of, then he's the guy. This creates all sorts of problems though: not only do I believe that Dempster will not be the starter than everyone hopes he'll become, but we lost a great closer. Dempster had the second base save percentage in the league, blowing just three saves all year while converting 28. You'd be hard-pressed to find that kind of efficiency elsewhere.