Andruw Jones is a Sunk Cost…but I Still Like Him

I’ve been checking out several Braves message boards lately out of curiosity. I’m not a message board type of guy, but it’s been interesting to see what some my fellow fans think of the Bravos. One of the most consistent economic fallacies I keep running across has to do with Andruw Jones. For some reason, fans love to hate this guy, and everyone wants to dump his contract. In my book, a solid defensive center fielder with .850 OPS creates little room for complaint, especially when the guy is only 27 with a HUGE potential upside. Even without this potential, the guy is a solid MLB baseball player. But whenever someone brings this up the #1 message board response is “but he makes $12 million a year.” Yes, this is a lot of money, and given the current market for Andruw’s skills he does seem a tad overpaid. However, the fact the he might be overpaid does not mean that dumping him eliminates the problem.

Andruw Jones signed his contract at a time when baseball salaries were on the rise. In fact, AJ was considered to have taken less than market value to stay with the Braves at the time of his signing. The market has since adjusted, and now I am sure John Scheurholz wishes he had not given so much of his payroll to Andruw Jones, as well as Chipper Jones and John Smoltz. But this is a problem faced by many teams. Boston wishes it did not have to pay Manny Ramirez’s hefty $20 million salary despite the fact that he is probably one of the best three hitters in baseball (along with A-Rod and Bonds). The thing is the Braves can’t dump Andruw and then feel financial freedom. As long as Andruw plays Major League Baseball, someone has to pay him $12 million a year to do so until his contract expires. To get another team to pay AJ his salary the Braves must give up more than just Jones, since his salary could be used to buy more on the open market.

Jones’s contract is a sunk cost, and sunk costs are irrelevant to economic decisions. Assuming the market for baseball talent is rational (which to some is a strong assumption), getting that $12 million/year back is impossible, so Braves fans should forget about it. This is not to say the Braves could not trade Jones. Yes, gains from trade may exist, but my main point is that Jones can not be dumped for free. Getting rid of Jones may mean getting rid of prospects like Marte and Capellan or acquring another albatross contract that includes a player who better fills the team’s needs. So just be happy that we’re not watching Juan Pierre out there.

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