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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dodgers Sign Andruw Jones To 2-Year, $36.2M Deal

Ken Rosenthal, the Times, and dodgers.com all report the Dodgers have signed centerfielder Andruw Jones to a two-year, $36.2M deal. From Dylan Hernandez's LAT story:
At the start of the off-season, Jones' agent, Scott Boras, signaled he expected Jones could get a five-year contract worth $100 million.

But no team appeared to come close to such an offer, amid concerns over a .222 batting average that was 41 points below his career average and questions about his long-term conditioning. The two-year deal provides Jones the chance to re-establish his value and re-enter the free-agent market at age 32. Jones is believed to like the idea of hitting behind fleet-footed Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre, which could allow him to drive in more runs.

Snore. More of the same from the Dodgers, who inexplicably seem to be falling for the same mistake the Angels did, shoring up one bad centerfield acquisition with (arguably) another. Now, it's possible that Jones is merely coming off a lone bad season, and that he will bounce back; but for Colletti's expensive potential bust, we may add the caveat that at least the (perhaps rotten and stinking) fish he landed has a two-year expiration date on it, a far better deal than the five years Gary Matthews, Jr. and Torii Hunter have. Oddly enough, Nate Silver called Jones "closer to Hunter in reality than in perception" at the end of the season, which makes sense: low-ish OBP, higher single-season home run totals offset by a precipitous plunge from previous levels.

As to whether the deal stinks: John Beamer at The Hardball Times looked at Jones' 2007, and concluded that

If you allow me to blatantly speculate, what appears to have happened is this: in the early few weeks Andruw was trying be selective but swung hard and fast when he saw a hittable pitch. He walked a ton, got a dash of luck but didn't hit many home runs despite playing well. In an effort to dial up the power he became less selective and more ragged and his production worsened considerably. Since then he has reigned [sic] in the power, focused a little more on contact and seen a corresponding change in his peripherals.
Dave Studeman posted a followup piece that same day, finding that Jones' line drive rate has been falling over the last four years:
As expected, Andruw has lost a lot of oomph on his outfield flies (despite hitting more of them), but his line drive production has also declined; in fact, it's declined each of the past four years. Add in lower production on his groundballs and more strikeouts, and you pretty much have a quadruple whammy.
That is, he's just not hitting the ball hard as he used to, and therefore isn't as valuable. But allow me to back off of this particular brand of pessimism for a moment and look at the bigger picture. The first question has to be, are the Dodgers improved? The only way that can be answered in the affirmative offensively is if you believe Jones is about to have a bounceback year. That could happen, but his 2007 was so bad that it could also belie a fundamental change in his value. Assuming he does revert to something like his age-adjusted career norms, this gives the Dodgers the unusual situation of having a centerfielder capable of carrying both his weight and Juan Pierre's, who now moves to the traditional power spot in left. The good news there is that Jones can still get it done in center (109 Rate2), so at least the comical trend of baserunners tagging from first on balls hit up the middle can come to an end. This is arguably a desperation move, but it signals something far more important, and ultimately, valuable to the Dodgers: it shows Ned Colletti understands that the Pierre contract is an albatross.

Jon, who likes the deal much more than I do, has more, saying "they can shortcircuit [the value of this signing] by overvaluing or undervaluing the wrong players."

Update: One thing I did miss here was the Scott Boras angle on things. Why Boras didn't get Jones a one-year deal is beyond me, unless he really thinks his client is possibly going to hell in a handbasket or other container. Baron von Awesome at BTF has an interesting take on the deal from Colletti's career perspective, too:

It looks to me like hedge-betting in preparation for taking credit no matter what happens on Uncle Ned's part. If Jones continues to mildly suck as last year, Uncle Ned says "Well, I knew he was a risk, that's why I insisted on only a two-year deal." If Jones goes gangbusters, Uncle Ned says, "I knew he was going to be great! That's why I didn't hesitate to give him $18 million a year!"
Update 2: Joe Sheehan:
I love this contract. It will be far and away the smartest thing any team does this winter, and it pushes the Dodgers up a little bit closer to the Diamondbacks in the 2008 NL West race.
Update 3: Inside The Dodgers isn't allowed to be anything but positive on this, but there is one reason for legitimate pleasure over this deal, and it's this graf:
He also said this makes him a little bit more comfortable about the in-house options at third base. If something comes up that is a really great option, we would do it, but pitching is the greater priority.
Which means that Andy LaRoche's status as a Dodger is safe at the moment.

Thanks to Jon for the link and extensive quote.

Update 4: Keith Law ($): "In a vacuum, this is an outstanding signing for the Dodgers", but comes up with the same dilemma Jon does: if it's an acknowledgement of the awfulness of the Pierre deal, great, but if it's prelude to moving Matt Kemp, ouch.

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As sucky as Jones' 07 numbers would be, he'd still lead the Dodgers in RBI, by a decent margin.

Over Pierre? I'll take Jones.
Unrelated question, but I've been curious to hear your input on this.

Why the hell aren't the Angels looking at Matt Brown as a possibility at third next year?
Probably because they think of him as depth. That could change with a good spring training, but I happen to agree with that assessment.

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