"The Cubs have had Jones on the trading block for months. Chicago fans have been exceptionally hard on him because he hasn't lived up to their expectations, and Jones in turn has grown increasingly unhappy in Chicago. In recent days, his playing time under Lou Piniella has seriously diminished."
So reported cbs.sportsline.com last June 26th, when a deal that would have sent Jacque Jones to the Marlins fell through, and the Cubs were stuck with a veteran outfielder who, at the time, was hitting .234 with an execrable .295 on-base percentage and .328 slugging percentage.

Back in June, I thought if Jim Hendry had succeeded in completing that deal, it would have ranked alongside his 2002 trade of Todd Hundley to the Dodgers as masterworks in the category of Take My Problem...Please. (No matter that the Cubs would supposedly have had to pay the remainder of Jones's $4MM 2007 salary and all of his $5MM '08 salary and received just a low-level minor league pitcher from the Marlins in return.)

Jones remained in Chicago, and instead of publicly complaining about being an almost ex-Cub, he turned his season around, hitting .325/.368/.456 the rest of the way and playing a key role in the Cubs' climb to the NL Central title.

As of today, Jacque is a Detroit Tiger, Omar Infante is a Chicago Cub, and I can't get too worked up over either one.

As admirable a fellow as he seems to be personally and as much as he might have helped the Cubs' resurgence last season, the 32-year-old Jones has never been more than a decent Major Leaguer and at times, even that may be a stretch.

Despite the dramatic elevation in batting average over the second half of 2006, his power numbers remained shockingly down--just 5 HR in 453 AB. And while Jones held his own against left-handed pitching in '06, his lifetime numbers against lefties (636 OPS) cast him as something other than an everyday player.

On the bases, Jones was always a mistake waiting to happen.

Defensively, he covered a lot of ground in the Cub outfield, but his throwing arm will remain the stuff of legend around Wrigley Field for a very long time to come. (That's legendarily bad. Like Howard Cosell as a variety show host.)

His departure appears to clear the way for Felix Pie to be the regular centerfielder...unless it doesn't.

As for Infante, a career Tiger, the Cubs say they like his versatility: he played all three OF positions, plus second, short and third last season alone.

As a hitter, however, he's less than not much. In six seasons in Detroit, he has a lifetime OPS+ of just 81, and his lifetime on-base percentage of .298 is enough to conjure memories of...well, I'm not even going to type the name.

It's hard for me to see where Infante has a place on the 2008 Cubs, unless there are plans to trade Ronny Cedeno, in which case Omar could slide into the role of the Good-Glove, No-Hit Guy which every Cub squad seems compelled to fill.

Bottom line:

I think the Cubs are going to spend some money this off-season and land at least one big free agent--perhaps a couple, from both sides of the Pacific--and by the time we get to Spring Training, I just don't see Omar Infante's presence or Jacque Jones's absence having a significant positive or negative influence on the Cubs' prospects in '08.

Finally, in parting, this...

"We like a lot of things about Jacque. He's a very versatile guy. We were very intent on trying to get a left-handed hitter. He's very athletic, has some pop in his bat, an outstanding throwing arm. He's a versatile player and had a lot of upside in him."

--Jim Hendry, 12/20/05, upon signing Jacque Jones


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