The Twins dipped into their past on Tuesday, signing outfielder Jacque Jones to a minor league contract containing an invite to spring training.
A second-round pick by the Twins in the 1996 draft, Jones spent seven seasons in Minnesota between 1999 and 2005. He was part of the core group of youngsters given the chance to play every day in 1999 by manager Tom Kelly, joining Torii Hunter, Cristian Guzman, A.J. Pierzynski, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Corey Koskie. Jones was a popular mainstay in the team which broke the string of eight-consecutive losing seasons in 2001 and then won back-to-back-to-back AL Central Division titles from 2002 to 2004.
Jones batted .279/.327/.455 in his seven seasons in Minnesota with 189 doubles, 132 HR, and 476 RBI in just under 3,800 plate appearances. His finest season was 2002, when he batted .300/.341/.511 with 37 doubles, 27 HR, and 85 RBI. He left as a free agent after the 2005 season and signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs. His first season in Chicago was productive (.285/.334/.499), but he soon fell out of favor after a largely unproductive 2007 campaign, and was traded in the off-season to the Detroit Tigers. Jones spent a month of the 2008 season with the Tigers and was released after hitting just .165/.244/.253 in 90 plate appearances, and was picked up by the Florida Marlins. Things did not go well in FLA, either, as Jones hit just .108/.227/.108 in 44 plate appearances and did not play the rest of the season.
He signed with the Reds last spring but did not make the club out of spring training. Jones worked out the rest of the 2009 season but did not play baseball. He received a loud ovation when he appeared to throw out the first pitch of the Twins/Tigers' tiebreaker game last season and went to the winter meetings in December in hopes of a comeback.
The move is a no-risk one for the Twins. Jones has essentially no shot at making the club out of spring training. The team is set at the outfield position, with the exception of fifth outfielder (more on that later), and Jones has agreed to accept an assignment to Rochester if he fails to make the club. Once he gets some PAs down on the farm and gets his timing back, he would be an option should the Twins run into injuries.
The fifth outfielder roster spot is open, and it has one less contender today after the New York Mets claimed outfielder Jason Pridie on waivers. The speedy Pridie was acquired by the Twins in the Garza/Bartlett/Young deal prior to the 2008 season and he spent virtually all his time in Rochester. He made six plate appearances for the Twins over two seasons, recording no hits and picking up one walk. In the minors, Pridie hit .265/.295/.382 last season, and was in the mix for a spot on the final roster this spring, mostly because he could run and was good in the outfield. However, he appeared to be regressing at the plate and was very disappointing in Rochester in 2009.
The Mets plucked him on waivers after the Twins removed him from the 40-man roster to make room for newly-signed Orlando Hudson. With Pridie gone, candidates for the fifth outfielder spot include Rene Tosoni from the minors, or Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto off the current roster. We'll have to see how it shakes out, but losing Pridie won't keep many in Twins Territory up at night.