Had a suspicion this might be coming. But had no idea it would be coming tonight. The guess here is Ethier or Kemp will now be traded for a frontline starting pitcher … or a third baseman if the Dodgers sign Kuroda. The guess here is also that this team just got a whole lot better, both on the field for next summer and from a bargaining position for the rest of this winter. Jones’ disappointing 2007 season notwithstanding, this is a huge move for the Dodgers — and easily the second-biggest move of these remarkably uneventful meetings so far by any club.
By Tony Jackson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Dodgers reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday night with free-agent center fielder Andruw Jones, a source with knowledge of the situation said on the condition of anonymity. Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner who was once one of the game’s most feared hitters, will receive a two-year, $36 million contract if he passes a physical.
Jones, joins the Dodgers after more than 11 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, for whom he was a five-time All-Star.
Jones, 30, whose throwing arm is far superior to that of Juan Pierre, will become the Dodgers regular center fielder, forcing Pierre to move to left. That leaves two of the organization’s most highly touted young players, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, to split time in right field unless one of them is traded, something that becomes a strong possibility with the addition of Jones.
The Dodgers have identified another starting pitcher as their primary need of the winter. Adding either Ethier or Kemp to their list of available players for trade could help them acquire a marquee starter and possibly even put them in the running for Minnesota lefty Johan Santana, whom the Twins are looking to unload and who is easily the top pitcher available on either the trade or free-agent markets.
Jones is coming off a disappointing season offensively in which he batted .222, his career low for a full season, and hit just 26 home runs, matching his lowest total since he hit 18 in 1997, his first full year in the big leagues. But he has hit as many as 51 home runs in a season in 2005 and driven in as many as 129 runs in 2006.
Jones also has an especially close friendship with Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, the two having been longtime teammates with the Braves.
Jones is represented by notorious hardball agent Scott Boras, who was believed to be seeking a contract for his client in the neighborhood of the five-year, $90 million deal the Angels gave free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter last week. But as this week’s winter meetings wore on, it became increasingly clear that there wasn’t much of a market for Jones, especially at the price Boras had set for him.
As a result, he fell into the Dodgers’ price range. The deal is a win-win for both sides: the Dodgers aren’t locking themselves into a long-term commitment, and Jones has a chance to regain his form before possibly testing the market again after the 2009 season.
The contract will pay Jones a $12 million signing bonus, a $9 million salary in 2008 and $15 million in 2009.