Monday, January 05, 2009

Should the Reds Take a Flier on Andruw Jones?

The Dodgers have worked out a deal on Andruw Jones' contract that should help the team lower its payroll and get rid of the hugely disappointing outfielder. Jones signed a large free-agent deal with the Dodgers to patrol centerfield, but wound up patrolling the bench after batting .158 in 209 at-bats. That's sub-Mendoza Line. That's even sub-Bill Bergen Line.

But now the Dodgers have restructured Jones' deal so that he is only owed $5 million in 2009. That's assuming the Dodgers trade him; the restructured deal will make him a free agent if the Dodgers can't find a trading partner by Jan. 15. Somebody is going to take a chance on a 10-time Gold Glove centerfielder who was, for most of his career, a good (sometimes great) hitter.

The Rangers have been mentioned (GM Jon Daniels said Texas "probably" isn't interested). A return to the Braves has been broached as a possibility; the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels (the usual suspects, in other words) have also come up.

I think the team that should take a flier on Jones is the Reds. If the Reds open 2009 with their current roster, they will have one of the worst offenses in baseball. Barring a major breakout season by Jay Bruce (which is a possibility) and a major improvement from Edwin Encarnacion (which isn't), anyway. They've done nothing so far to upgrade the offense. In fact, they arguably made it worse by signing Willy Taveras.

At the same time, the Reds still have gaping holes in their defense. Let's see: Bad hitting, bad fielding. What's that equal? Bad record.

So take a flier on Andruw Jones and hope for the best. Sure, a return to pre-2006 form is unlikely. But you never know.

Since July 2006, Jones has batted .209 with 46 homers, a .312 OBP and a .401 slugging percentage. Atrocious. But guess what? That .713 OPS has been bettered by Taveras only once, is 100 points higher than the OPS Taveras posted in Coors Field last season, and is 50 points higher than Taveras' career OPS.

The Reds signed Taveras to a 2-year deal, so they probably aren't going to bench him in favor of Jones. But opening the season with Bruce in left, Taveras in center and Jones in right at least improves the defense, and Jones could move over to center once Taveras shows himself to be Corey Patterson without the home runs.