December 13, 2005

Jacque Declines Arbitration

As expected, Jacque Jones declined the Twins' arbitration offer yesterday.

I don't think Terry Ryan was ever particularly interested in Jones returning to the team, but rather wanted the draft pick the Twins will now receive as compensation when he signs with another team. Plus, as a worst-case scenario, Jones agreeing to accept what would essentially have been a one-year deal at a fairly reasonable price didn't represent much of a risk.

Jones was always an enigma in my eyes. He was clearly a gifted athlete and a very talented player, yet was never able to put all of his tools to great use. He was extremely inconsistent, possessed one of the least reliable outfield arms in all of baseball despite being a very good defender, displayed horrible plate discipline regardless of the situation, and never figured out a way to hold his own against left-handed pitching.

Playing for the Twins and having Ron Gardenhire as his manager likely magnified Jones' already sizable flaws. His combination of outstanding athleticism and a hacktastic approach at the plate is in many ways representative of the Twins' organization as a whole, both good and bad. And Gardenhire's refusal to platoon Jones against southpaws did nothing but expose him as an incomplete player while hurting the team.

Despite racking up at least 500 plate appearances in each of the past six seasons, Jones never once drew as many as even 40 non-intentional walks in a year. Much was made of his improved patience this season, but the fact is that 12 of his career-high 51 walks came intentionally, leaving him with a measly 39 non-intentional walks in 585 plate appearances. In 3,783 career trips to the plate, Jones has struck out 737 times while drawing a total of 206 non-intentional walks.

Jones finishes his Twins career as a .227/.277/.339 hitter against left-handed pitching, a subject that is a sore spot with me. It has been painfully obvious for years now that Jones has no business playing every day, yet thanks to Gardenhire's stubborn refusal to face facts and do something as simple as platoon a left-handed hitter, nearly 30% of Jones' at-bats over the past three seasons came against lefties.

None of those flaws kept Jones from being a quality player, but they make him relatively easy to let go. Had he been platooned, the team would miss Jones' .294/.341/.488 career line against right-handed pitching and likely struggle to replace him with similar production. However, that was never going to be an option as long as Gardenhire is around, and replacing Jones' mediocre overall production will simply not be very difficult.

After back-to-back .300 seasons in 2002 and 2003, Jones' batting average fell off a cliff over the past two years and he hit just .251/.317/.432. For all the criticism Lew Ford and Michael Cuddyer have taken for their sub par 2005 seasons, their offensive production was every bit as good as Jones'. Throw in what is hopefully a healthy Jason Kubel at some point in 2006 and right field is certainly an area for potential improvement at a fraction of what Jones has been (and will be) paid.

So long, Jacque.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- PrOPS: 2005 and Beyond (by J.C. Bradbury)
- How Much Can We Learn By Looking At "Stuff"? (by David Gassko)

Pick of the Day (153-129, +$2,295):
Miami -2 (-110) over Milwaukee

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