Monday, July 03, 2006

Right (Field) Where We Belong

When Sammy Sosa vacated right field for the Cubs, he left a big hole, not only in the outfield, but more importantly in the batting order. The Cubs signed Jacques Jones as a FA in the off season to a three-year contract. The reviews were mixed on his signing, as were the reviews of his play early in the 2006 season. However, Jones has started to play up to expectations and the boo birds have quieted down in recent weeks.

Although Jones is signed through the 2008 season, there is no guarantee that he’ll be back to patrol right field (or left field for that matter). Here is the skinny on Jacques Jones as well as other who could potentially take his place:

Jacques Jones – Left/Left, Age 31. Jones is signed through the 2008 season. He is currently earning $3 million per year. He is scheduled to earn $4 million in 2007 and $5 million in 2008. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .281/.328/.530, 1056 hits in 1051 games, 146 HR, 519 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 7/2/06): .308/.338/.530, 82 hits in 75 games, 14 HR, 43 RBI. Discussion: Jones has really turned things around after a slow start to his 2006 season. Even so, many fans find it hard to cheer for him because of the poor season the Cubs have had. That’s probably unfair, but that’s reality. Don’t be surprised if Jones is used as trade bait, either at the trade deadline or during the off-season.

Other possibilities are:

Bobby Abreau (Philadelphia Phillies) – Right/Left, Age 32. Abreau is signed through the 2007 season with a club option for 2008. He is earning $13 million in 2006 and is scheduled to earn $15 million in 2007 and $16 million if his option is picked up in 2008. Abreau also has a full no-trade clause and incentives for all years. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .302/.413/.510, 1510 hits in 1408 games, 198 HR, 833 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 7/2/06): .290/.444/.472, 78 hits in 79 games, 8 HR, 57 RBI. Discussion: The Phillies have been shopping Abreau since this past off-season. They would like to spend the money earmarked for Abreau in other ways, but they have proven that they’re not willing to just dump his contract. The feeling is also that Abreau’s laid back style just doesn’t fit in with the Phillies new, more aggressive philosophy. There’s been a lot of talk about the Cubs getting Abreau, but I just don’t think it would be a great fit. I think the Cubs can do better than taking on a 32 year old Abreau with his rather large contract.

Brad Hawpe (Colorado Rockies) – Left/Left, Age 27. Contract information unavailable. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .278/.364/.467, 188 hits in 221 games, 27 HR, 103 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 7/2/06): .308/.395/.568, 15 HR, 47 RBI. Discussion: I couldn’t find the contract info for Hawpe, but his years of ML service (1.058 years) would indicate that he will not be a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. That means it would take a trade for the Cubs to acquire Hawpe. It’s not that Hawpe is a big name player, but he could be a solid acquisition if the Cubs also add a couple of big name players at other positions.

Wily Mo Pena (Boston Red Sox) – Right/Right, Age 24. Pena will become a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He currently earns $1.25 million per year. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .257/.312/.478, 242 hits in 338 games, 55 HR, 155 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 7/2/06): .321/.370/.482, 36 hits in 36 games, 4 HR, 18 RBI. Discussion: Wily Mo was all the rage during the past off-season. Because of this, I expected his career offensive numbers to be better. Even so, just about everyone expects Pena to blossom into an all-star caliber player. He is currently on the DL in Boston and has kind of become the odd man out among their outfielders. Don’t expect Boston to make a big run to re-sign him at the end of 2006. This might be the Cubs chance to sign a young, promising right fielder.

Discussion: I don’t think there is any reason to dump Jacques Jones, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs use him to acquire another player. If they do and don’t get a respectable RF in the deal, Pena will be the guy to go after in the off-season. Another scenario would be to move Jones to left field (his arm is better suited to LF) and then bring in Pena (or maybe RF would be a good place for Felix Pie or Buck Coats).

My choices are:

1) Jacques Jones
2) Wily Mo Pena


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