According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees’ interest in Andruw Jones has grown and is now classified as “strong.” Steve S. delved into Jones earlier, so consider this an extension of the case for and/or against Jones.
The MLBTR post mentions that the Yankees want a right handed hitter who can handle left and center field. Can Jones still do that? More or less, yeah.
In 2009, Jones was even against righties (.337 wOBA) and lefties (.336 wOBA). In 2010, there was a more pronounced split, but both numbers were good: .342 vs. RHP and .402 vs. LHP. 2009 is a closer representation of Jones’ platoon numbers, though. His career numbers are .355 vs. LHP and .352 vs. RHP. Andruw’s fielding numbers have been solid, too. So, should the Yankees keep going with this? Should their interest be strong? Yes, it should.
Jones is exactly the type of bench outfielder that the Yankees need. As I noted in the comments section of Steve’s piece, the Yankees have cheap options like Greg Golson and Brandon Laird, but both of those represent extreme unknowns at this point. Golson hasn’t proven that he can hit yet–though to be fair, he hasn’t had much playing time. Laird is essentially an experiment in the outfield, though his bat is a little more advanced. As of right now, I’d pencil in Laird as a starter in Scranton to start the year and Golson to be the fifth outfielder.
It might be money saving to use Golson as the fourth outfielder and it would stick to the omnipresent desire to get “younger and more athletic” but I wouldn’t be comfortable with Golson being the first man off of the bench in the outfield. Jones fits the bill to a “t”. And while I’ve advocated for Scott Hairston in the past, I wouldn’t mind Jones one bit. If this interest is real, the only thing left to do is hammer out the contract details.
Per Baseball-Reference, the White Sox paid Jones $500K in 2010 (with the Dodgers giving Jones $3.2M). Jones did have a strong year–.364 wOBA, 126 wRC+, 1.8 WAR in 328 PA–so a raise would likely be in order. The Yankees signed Randy Winn for $1.1MM to be a bench outfielder and I think a similar deal would be perfect for Jones and the Yankees. It gives Jones a substantial raise, is about market value for bench outfielder, and it would also be cheap enough for the Yankees to eat the contract if Jones absolutely bombs like Winn did. Of course, Scott Boras is Andruw’s agent, so negotiations will likely not be easy, as Boras will be looking to capitalize on Jones’ solid 2010. But with the silence on the market for Jones, I don’t think his camp will have much leverage. This seems like a near perfect scenario.
Some will say that the Yankees need to focus on pitching right now and the Yankees shouldn’t be focusing on bench outfielders right now. Ironically, I’m sure many of these people are the same ones who said Brian Cashman couldn’t “multitask” when trying to sign Cliff Lee. Either way, this is what the Yankees should be doing: plugging small holes for now while waiting for a better scenario to acquire a pitcher. There are no starters worth signing. The Yankees don’t seem interested in signing another reliever (regardless of what Heyman says about them in re: Soriano). There is, however, a perfectly suitable fourth OF option out there in Andruw Jones.
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