Saturday, April 05, 2008

Torii Hunter Better Bargain than Andruw Jones?

Preliminary impressions on the young season seem to confirm various opinions that the Angels $18-million-a-year deal with Torii Hunter will easily outshine the cross-town Dodgers $18-million-a-year deal with Andruw Jones, not only because of Hunter's superior hitting but perhaps even his fielding as well.

Hunter came to the Angels more highly touted than Jones after after Hunter hit .287 with 94 RBI and 28 homers last year for the Twins, compared to Jones' .222 average with 94 RBI and 26 homers for the Braves. But the Dodgers rationalized that Jones was due for a comeback year, and that his defensive play would make the deal worthwhile in any case as he and Hunter were comparable in the field.

But the kicker now seems to be that Jones no longer can be regarded as the unmistakable Gold Glove fielder he was when he played for the Braves. Jones -- trying to add muscle mass during the off-season -- seems to some observers to be so heavy now that he can no longer run the way he used to.

"He doesn't look like the same player to me," said Padres announcer Jerry Coleman after watching Jones fail to catch up to a long fly during a broadcast of a recent game between the Padres and Dodgers in San Diego.

Coleman said Jones looks noticeably heavier and slower.

Because it is still early in the year and because the Angels in effect paid more for Hunter than the Dodgers did for Jones (Hunter's contract is for five years as compared to Jones' cheaper two-year deal), it may take several seasons before the two contracts can be evaluated to see which Los Angeles team came out ahead.

But with early impressions taking shape, an old expression comes to mind: you get what you pay for.

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