February 9, 2010

Twins Waive Jason Pridie, Sign Jacque Jones

Forced to clear a spot on the 40-man roster after signing Orlando Hudson last week, the Twins waived Jason Pridie and lost him to a claim by the Mets yesterday. Someone in the front office was a big Pridie fan because the Twins actually acquired him twice, first as a Rule 5 pick in December of 2005 and then as part of the Matt Garza-for-Delmon Young swap with Tampa Bay in November of 2007. Unfortunately, for all his supposed tools Pridie just never showed that he could hit even Double-A or Triple-A pitching.

He hit .248/.297/.360 in 231 games at Double-A and .277/.315/.434 in 322 games at Triple-A, including an abysmal .265/.295/.382 with an 85-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 121 games at Rochester last year. Pridie logged over 2,300 plate appearances between the two levels, and per 150 games struck out 122 times compared to just 31 non-intentional walks. Toss in modest power and he just wasn't going to be a valuable big leaguer despite having good speed and a strong glove.

Pridie had been atop the Twins' list of possible fifth outfielders, but that was almost by default and guys with his basic skill set and utility will be available on waivers or minor-league contracts from now until Opening Day (and perhaps from now until the end of time). In fact, as soon as Pridie was claimed off waivers by the Mets yesterday the Twins announced that they'd signed another potential fifth outfielder to a minor-league deal: Jacque Jones. Yes, that Jacque Jones.

Two months ago Jones personally attended the winter meetings in the hopes of talking someone into giving him a comeback opportunity at age 35, but he predictably found that to be a tough sell. Jones left the Twins as a free agent after the 2005 season and was last a reasonably productive player in 2007, batting .285/.335/.400 for the Cubs. He fell off a cliff in 2008, hitting .147 in 42 games for the Tigers and Marlins, and spent last season playing for the independent league Newark Bears.

While the Twins could certainly use a fifth outfielder capable of backing up Denard Span in center field, the odds of a 35-year-old Jones fitting that bill seem slim given that he's three seasons removed from playing the position regularly or holding his own versus big-league pitching. Toss in the fact that Jones was nearly useless against left-handed pitching even in his prime and it's tough to see him fitting into an outfield/designated hitter mix that already includes lefty bats Span, Jason Kubel, and Jim Thome.

Jones' contract includes an invitation to spring training, but the Twins have indicated that he's unlikely to make the team and has already agreed to report to Triple-A if not on the Opening Day roster. There's no real harm in letting him come to camp and giving Jones one last chance to salvage his career with a stint at Rochester may not even be such a bad idea depending on how the minor-league depth chart shakes out, but they can do better in even the most rudimentary search for a fifth outfielder.

In terms of best fitting the roster ideally the job calls for a right-handed bat (or switch-hitter) with a good glove and plus speed, experience in all three outfield spots, and some semblance of either power or on-base skills. Pridie and Jones fail that description on multiple levels, but there's no urgency to find a better fit and in fact waiting until the end of spring training could yield the best results once teams start trying to slip guys through waivers. Or they could just trust Nick Punto to handle center field in a pinch.

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