|Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski stayed busy by making his second trade of the offseason, sending infielder Omar Infante to the Cubs for outfielder Jacque Jones.|
|The Big Leaguers|
|Jones, who turns 33 early next season, saw his home runs plummet from 27 in 2006 to five last season—which was odd considering his .285 average, .335 on-base percentage and 33 doubles were nearly identical totals to those of the year before. The lefthanded batter enters the final year of a three-year, $16 million deal he signed with the Cubs, and he offers solid production against righthanded pitchers, against whom he’s batted .294/.342/.483 in his career. Taken in the second round of the 1996 draft from Southern California, Jones has the arm and range to handle center or right field. For his career, he’s a .280/.329/.455 hitter with 164 home runs and 623 RBIs in 1,260 games.
The Tigers called Infante, 26, to the big leagues in 2002 when he was just 20 years old. The young Venezuelan shortstop hit so well (.333/.360/.417 in 72 at-bats) that Detroit kept him around for their 119-loss edition in 2003. Like many young Tigers that year, e.g. Brandon Inge, Jeremy Bonderman and Fernando Rodney, Infante went through major growing pains. He rebounded in 2004, though, to hit .264/.317/.449 with 16 home runs at age 22 while playing in 142 games. Infante’s playing time has decreased steadily since then, and he’s served mostly as an up-the-middle reserve in each of the past two seasons, seeing most of his time at second base and shortstop. But he also plays third and all three outfield spots. Infate is a career .253/.298/.386 hitter in 1,592 at-bats.
|Adding Jones gives the Tigers a third lefthanded bat to go with center fielder Curtis Granderson and shortstop-turned-first baseman Carlos Guillen. It also buys time for top Tigers prospect Cameron Maybin, who is just 20 and could use more minor league time. Infante was really an extra piece for Detroit, and one who likely will not be missed in 2008. Though Jones can walk after the season, he could net the Tigers a supplemental first-round pick if he retains his Type B free agent compensation status. The Cubs reportedly were close to dealing Jones to the Marlins for lefty Graham Taylor in June, but the commissioner’s office nixed the deal because of the Cubs’ pending sale. They got more for Jones as it turned out in this deal.
It’s difficult to predict how Infante fits in with Chicago, a team that already employs middle infielders Mark DeRosa, Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot and Ronny Cedeno. All but DeRosa are roughly in the same age bracket as Infante. The Cubs’ lineup also leans heavily to the right and losing Jones and (potentially) free agent Cliff Floyd could hurt them more than it would most teams. However, the trade does clear room for Felix Pie, a lefthanded batter and the organization’s center fielder of the future.