Andruw Jones Available

As expected, the Los Angeles Dodgers released Andruw Jones, arranging to pay his salary over the course of several years.

All along, it was expected that Jones would return to the Braves, as he always felt very comfortable in Atlanta and enjoyed playing for Bobby Cox. In fact, over the past few days Jones has been seen practicing with Chipper Jones and wearing a Braves cap at basketball games.

However, the Braves are not exactly welcoming him back with open arms — and may not offer him a contract at all.

The issue is simple — the Braves have a full 40-man roster stocked with an abundance of young talent. If they sign Jones to a MLB contract, they’d have to drop someone off — and that someone would likely be a strong prospect, who would be picked up by another team. Further, the Braves do not currently have a need for Jones, as they have an abundance of outfielders led by Jeff Francoeur and youngsters Josh Anderson and Brandon Jones. To make room, the Braves would likely have to either waive or trade someone like Gregor Blanco, Martin Prado, or Omar Infante. None of those players are stars, but all three showed offensive promise in 2008, are fairly young, versatile, and can do a lot of things a team needs from role players. Bobby Cox’s formula for success has always included the flexibility of such players — guys who may not be sluggers, but can execute all the “little things” and help the team in many other ways. Andruw Jones would have to have a great spring training to push one of those guys off the roster.

Because of the Braves’ lukewarm interest, Andruw Jones has to look for other options, and according to

Jones has told friends that he believes the Reds and Mets could make a push to acquire him. Both of these teams reportedly talked to the Dodgers about acquiring him via trade earlier this offseason.

Personally, I hope that’s true. Say what you want about Jones being finished, being a lazy fat pig, being finished, etc. etc. etc. Bottom line is this: the Mets are in DIRE need of a power hitting, righthanded-hitting corner outfielder. The current free agent market offers exactly one person to fit that description — Manny Ramirez — and all indications are that the Mets refuse to go that route. After Manny, the market drops considerably for a RH-hitting outfielder: Kevin Millar, Jacque Jones, Jay Payton, Emil Brown, and Jonny Gomes. That’s it, folks! Now you tell me — would you prefer to bring in one of those underwhelming possibilities, or take a $400,000 gamble on Andruw Jones?

Earlier this winter, I make the argument that the Mets should try to swap Castillo for Jones — such a deal would have had the Mets paying $15M for Jones (but also shedding $18M of Castillo’s contract). It would have been nice for the Mets to be $3M ahead and have Jones, but the same arguments apply for bringing him in on the MLB minimum salary — it’s a low-risk gamble that has the chance of paying off big.

Here’s my feeling: either Andruw Jones is going to hit again, or he’s not, and everything is based on him being healthy and regaining his confidence. If he has a promising, injury-free spring training, there’s a very good chance he’ll come back and hit 20-25 HR, with game-changing ability. He’s that kind of player, and there aren’t many around. If he looks awful in spring training, no biggie — you release him outright, and eat $400K. Jones is exactly the right fit for the penny-pinching Mets: he’ll come dirt cheap, he’ll be a one-year rental to keep LF warm for F-Mart, he has a RH bat, and he has extensive postseason success.

Last year, the Mets waited three months for their $16M investment in Carlos Delgado to pay off. Eventually, their patience was rewarded — handsomely. Without Delgado, the Mets might have finished in third place in 2008. Similarly, the Mets once gambled millions on Mo Vaughn, though that didn’t turn out quite so well. But it’s worth it for a team to take such risks when the upside is so great — Delgado, Vaughn, and Jones all had the skillset to be a monster for stretches at a time, to put a team on its back and carry them. The difference with Jones is, at 31, younger than either of them were (Vaughn was 34, Delgado 36), and won’t cost anywhere near the millions gambled on a comeback.

Unless the Mets reconsider their feelings about Manny Ramirez, or have some blockbuster trade in the works, picking up Andruw Jones is a no-brainer.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude January 16, 2009 at 2:14 pm
    You’re exactly right, Joe. It’s a no-brainer. A Jones-Beltran-Church OF would be the best defensively in the bigs. Jones’ presence would allow both Tatis and Murphy to slide back to the bench, where they honestly belong. Now you can have a bench of 2 righties (Tatis & Evans), 2 lefties (Murphy & Cora), and the backup catcher. Jeremy Reed can head to AAA and no one will miss Marlon Anderson. Also, Jones will only be asked to bat 7th, so it’s not as if he HAS to hit any better than .260 with 15 homers to be productive. But there’s every possibility in the world he outshines that projection, and returns to hitting 30 homers while playing gold glove defense. OK, he’ll strike out 120 times if given 400 at-bats, but the rest of his game will make up for that flaw. He’ll provide the perfect right-handed power stick in between the lefties Church and Schneider in the lineup, as well. And if he can’t hit a ball out of the infield in ST, or has fallen flat on his face over the first 2 months of the season, simply release him and eat the drop-in-the-bucket salary you gave him. Hey, if Alex Cora is worth $2-mil to come off the bench and hit .250 with no power, you can afford (at the most) $1.5-mil to take a chance on a former all-star and HR champion.

    Yup, it truly is a no-brainer. And I bet that’s exactly why the Mets won’t go this route.

  2. joe January 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm
    Remarkably, commenters at other Mets blogs are dead-set against bringing in Jones. I don’t get it. If it were to cost the Mets a player, or significant cash, I can understand the backlash. If Manny were coming in, I’d understand. If Fernando Tatis was more than a .270 hitter with mild pop, I could understand it. The Mets are one of the few teams in MLB who make a good fit for a gamble on Jones — no established left fielder, desperate for a RH power hitter — but no pressure to be a cleanup guy, plenty of roster space, ideally looking for a one-year rental, and can easily afford the $500K-$1.5M needed to make it happen. So he smirks … big deal!
  3. Walnutz15 January 16, 2009 at 3:09 pm
    At that kind of pricetag, Jones is hard to argue-against. If he sucks, then you leave him behind in ST — if he’s committed, then you have yourself another weapon in your arsenal….on both sides of the ball.

    I’m not rooting for it, but watch what happens this year when the 2008-tape on Tatis is circulated throughout the bigs.

    Murphy had better be the real deal, otherwise all of these anti-Manny, anti-Andruw cliques might be in for a rough go of it with the “Do Something to Address the Lineup” crowds from this winter.

    I’m not confident on any front right now — starting pitching, nor from an offensive standpoint…..and I hope to the baseball gods that Omar pulls something wacky out of his sleeve soon.