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A vote for Jacque?

Posted at 7:16 AM on May 11, 2005 by Bob Collins

A House committee last night gave its blessing to the proposed deal for a new Twins stadium. And Jacque Jones hit a solo, 10th-inning homer in Baltimore last evening to propel the local nine to a victory over the first-place Baltimore Orioles.

Those two events are linked by the cosmic forces that is Minnesota politics and the Major League Baseball economy.

Regardless of what you think about the financing of a new stadium, never forget this: the point of it is for you to drop more cash at a Twins game. The tickets will cost more, the concessions will cost more, and there'll be more non-game entertainment for you to spend money on, 'lest the little critters accompanying you learn the fine sport of baseball and actually sit in their seats for the whole game absorbing the wonderful strategy and grace of it all.

That's all summed up in the purpose of a stadium: to be more "competitive." In other words, to make more money to spend, presumably, on keeping good ballplayers in flyover country.

Which brings us to Jacque Jones.

If there are mysteries of the universe to be solved, surely one of the biggest -- right after what did Kevin McHale see in Joe Smith and, oh yeah, is there a God -- is what is Jacque Jones doing on this team?

If there's a guy who was the most likely candidate to be traded in the last two off-seasons, it was Jones. He was, we seemed to be told, a luxury the team could no longer -- wait for it -- afford.

Jones makes $5 million a year and his big payday is coming. The prevailing wisdom is $7-$8 million is too rich for a corner outfielder with a career .286 average. But his lifetime slugging pctg., is close to .500 and if you had one guess on what Twin would hit a clutch homer or face life in purgatory watching the greatest political soliloquies of Steve Sviggum and Dean Johnson, face it, it'd be Jones.

So let's assume by the end of the season, the Twins get their tax subsidy for a new ballpark (you know, the one allowing them to be more competitive). And let's assume the off-season dynamic doesn't change, and let's assume Jones continues on his season pace (20 HR, .331 avg, 1.007 Ops).

Even if it makes good Moneyball sense to do so, how do you dump Jones in a political environment like that?

The Twins could very well tell the House and Senate, "you're voting on whether to keep Jacque Jones." Well, it would, if they actually intended to.

So what does Jones' on-field future look like? I fired up an old predictor, my spreadsheet that incorporates Bill James' Brock5 calculations. Brock5 is a fabulous tool that is a tremendous indicator of future value (I'll send you the spreadsheet if you'd like to play with it).

How good a predictor? Going into last season, it predicted Jones would play in 150 games, score 79 runs, hit 24 homers with 86 RBI. He actually played in 151 games, scored 69 runs, hit 24 homers and 80 RBI.

For this year it predicts Jones will hit 19 homers and bat .285. But what about next year? .276, 20 homers. And then, in 2007, .267 with 17 HR, in 2008 .256 with 15 homers, and then the end of the career is in sight. He drops to 80 GP with 7 homers at the age of 34, and he's done at age 35 (5 years from now).

If you're Jacque Jones' agent, you've got these numbers. So what do you look for from the Twins at a time when they've just gotten taxpayer money to remain competitive? Yep, a big-money 5-year contract even though your production is not going to increase and is, in fact, going to decline.

See, it's comparatively easy to make GM moves when the only consideration is baseball. But now you've got a fistful of taxpayer dollars and an armload of promises and a few million people ready to call you out when it looks like you're reneging.

Good luck with that, boys.

May 2005
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