Juan Pierre is a free man.
After two long seasons, Pierre’s stint as baseball’s best fourth outfielder is presumably over.
The Chicago White Sox have reportedly acquired the slap-hitting sensation from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for two minor league pitchers to be named later.
Pierre, 32, will give the club an element it has lacked in recent years, speed.
Prior to assuming a bench role, Pierre averaged 52 steals per 162 games played while hitting mostly in the leadoff spot, a role he figures to assume with the White Sox.
Pierre brings more than speed to the Chicago lineup as he is also a solid top of the order table-setter with a career .301/.348/.372 batting line.
Last season, Pierre appeared in 145 games and hit .308/.365/.392 with 30 stolen bases.
Included in that total is a torrid stretch when starting left fielder Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50-games. During Ramirez’s suspension Pierre hit .318/.381/.411 with 21 stolen bases, 17 extra-base hits and 32 runs scored in 240 at-bats.
Despite his obvious skills as a leadoff hitter, Pierre had been deemed largely unmovable as he has two more years and $18.5 million remaining on the five-year, $44 million pact he signed with Los Angeles prior to the 2007 season.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Pierre will cost the White Sox $3 million in 2010 and $5 million in 2011, with the Dodgers picking up the remaining $10.5 million.
Prior to his relegation to the bench in 2008, he’d shown incredible durability by playing in all 162 games in each of the previous five seasons.
His defense and throwing arm are both stretched in center field and he ranks poorly on the defensive metric du jour, UZR/150. However, with Alex Rios in the fold, the club is more likely to shift Pierre to left field, Rios to center, and move Carlos Quentin to right field.
Based on the aforementioned UZR/150 rating, that arrangement would give the White Sox their best overall defensive alignment in the outfield, with the recently-acquired Andruw Jones serving as the fourth outfielder.
The addition of Pierre probably spells the end of Chicago’s tinkering for the offseason. The club is set all around the diamond and the rotation appears solid.
The White Sox now have a dynamic leadoff hitter, something the club hasn’t truly had in years. Pierre figures to be the table-setter the club has desperately needed in recent years.
Overall, the offense appears to be very solid and—given a full, healthy season of Jake Peavy—the club should have one of the best pitching staffs in the American League Central.
After struggling in 2009, Chicago’s under-the-radar roster moves could land the club right back in the thick of the pennant chase next season.