Should the Braves Take a Chance on Andruw Jones?

It appears that Andruw Jones will be leaving the Dodgers within the next few weeks. Given Jones’s affinity for Atlanta and manager Bobby Cox, and Atlanta’s need for outfield help, a reunion seems possible. While it all comes down to what the Braves have to give up to acquire Jones, I think that Andruw is risk worth taking.

There is no denying that Jones was bad last season—a line of .158/.256/.249 is about as bad as you can get. This was preceded by a poor 2007 performance of .222/.311/.413. Is Andruw Jones even worth the league minimum? I think so.

I still believe that Andruw’s 2007 was largely a product of back luck, and that he should rebound. The table below lists Andruw’s performance in several areas from 2004–2006 and 2007–2008. The former years are good years, while the latter two are not.

Year	AVG	OBP	SLG	Iso	K rate	BB rate	+/-
2004	0.261	0.345	0.488	0.227	22.76%	10.99%	?
2005	0.263	0.347	0.575	0.312	16.67%	9.52%	?
2006	0.262	0.363	0.531	0.269	18.98%	12.26%	+27
Mean	0.262	0.352	0.531	0.269	19.47%	10.92%	+16
							
2007	0.222	0.311	0.413	0.191	20.94%	10.62%	+22
2008	0.158	0.256	0.249	0.091	31.93%	11.34%	-4

Though 2007 was not up to Andruw’s previous level, it was still a reasonable fluctuation below his typical performance. Jones’s average was way down (the most variable hitting metric), and that explained a good bit of his decline in OBP and SLG. His isolated power was down too, but .190 is respectable. His defense (as measured by John Dewan’s Plus/Minus) was a few plays above his average over his previous three seasons. It was a good bet that Jones would be a decent player who would outperform his 2007. The Dodgers apparently agreed as they offered him a two-year, $36 million deal.

Then 2008 happened. It is easy to view 2008 as a continuation of 2007; but, Jones didn’t continue to decline, he collapsed. This wasn’t aging, Jones went from being an elite baseball player to being below major-league caliber. Even his defense suffered. I believe that Jones’s knee injury—which forced him to spend a large portion of the season on the DL—combined with poor conditioning, adjusting to a new team, and even a little bad luck caused Jones’s problem. I believe that these are all correctable.

I have seen Jones compared to other guys who never panned out like Rubin Sierra—Jones’s “most similar” player from age 21–27. That is a worthy comp, but I think of Jones like Mike Lowell. He was a very good player who just looked awful during his age-31 season in Florida. The Marlins basically forced the Red Sox to take him in the Josh Beckett deal. At the time, I was certain Lowell was done, but it turns out that Lowell had some good baseball left in him.

I think there’s some good baseball left in Andruw Jones. At 32, he is on the downside of his career, but player career paths look more like Stone Mountain than the Matterhorn. If he’s healthy and motivated, I think he’ll be a serviceable major-league outfielder. Is he worth the full value of what the Dodgers owe him? I doubt it, but that should be irrelevant to his new team. If the Braves could get him for the $5 million he will be paid next season, I’d jump at it. Especially, considering that the Braves outfield needs some players. The 2008 Andruw might be the real thing; and if that is the case, you eat the contract and write it off as a risk that didn’t turn out. But if his problems are behind him, he’ll be a bargain.

UPDATE: Of course, this pops up on BTF right after I posted.

Report: Andruw Jones Quits Winter Ball

just a few lines to let you know that andruw jones left his team for good, and is not coming back, the reason is that his wife is sick, but the real reason for me is that the team asked him to leave. He was struggling here, only a .148 ave, slow in defense

6 Responses “Should the Braves Take a Chance on Andruw Jones?”

  1. Rob McMillin says:

    I commend to you my contemporaneous piece about the Jones signing, and in particular, Dave Studeman’s post-mortem on Jones’ 2007 season at The Hardball Times. Studeman’s major point was that it wasn’t one thing that was falling apart for Jones: it was a “quadruple whammy” of lowered production on outfield flies, line drives, ground balls, and increased strikeouts. Brief and compelling.

  2. Rick says:

    IMO, at this point in his career, Jones is the very definition of a Replacement Level player at the plate. His K rate is alarming. His approach at the plate is terrible. He has no balance in his swing and is the poster child for what not to do at the plate.
    Look at his BABIP rate from 2004 onward with the other numbers JC posted. I’ll attempt to add his BABIP rate to the same chart.

    Year AVG OBP SLG Iso K rate BB rate +/- BABIP
    2004 0.261 0.345 0.488 0.227 22.76% 10.99% ? .303
    2005 0.263 0.347 0.575 0.312 16.67% 9.52% ? .240
    2006 0.262 0.363 0.531 0.269 18.98% 12.26% +27 .277
    Mean 0.262 0.352 0.531 0.269 19.47% 10.92% +16

    2007 0.222 0.311 0.413 0.191 20.94% 10.62% +22 .242
    2008 0.158 0.256 0.249 0.091 31.93% 11.34% -4 .229

    I really don’t think that he has the mindset to try and improve
    and become an average hitter. Other players have fallen off the
    cliff at around the same age as Jones, and to me, he’s an old 32.
    Dale Murphy, Glenn Davis, Kent Hrbek, Kent Hrbek, George Foster,
    Shawn Green, Don Mattingly, Matt Williams, Richie Sexson,
    Raul Mondesi, George Bell, Eric Karos, Kevin McReynolds, Ron Gant,
    Chuck Knoblach, Jay Buhner, Danny Tartabull, Mike Sweeney,
    John Valentin, Carl Everett.
    Falling off a cliff happens.

  3. Tyler K says:

    JC, I know you like the Burrell siging, i think that is a great fit for him and Tampa. And what do you think of the Braves maybe going after Oliver Perez, or even taking a chance on Pedro with a one year contract?

  4. Ron E. says:

    Especially, considering that the Braves outfield needs some players.

    No, the Braves outfield needs healthy, good players which Andruw is not. He’d just be another body and the Braves already have plenty of those in Francoeur, Anderson, Blanco, Brandon Jones, Infante, Diaz, Shaefer, and Norton.

  5. Marc Schneider says:

    JC,

    If Andruw was unlucky in 2007, does it follow that he was lucky in 2005 and 2006.  My feeling was that he was not that much better in those years than he had been previously but that almost everything was going out of the park.  I thought that injuries had some fair amount to do with his problems in 2007 but I really wasn’t surprised to see him struggle last year–although no one would have predicted he would be as bad as he was.  As an aside, while I was never one of Andruw’s bigger fans–his often flailing at low and away pitches frustrated me as it does with Francoeur–I was somewhat appalled at the way a lot of fans completely turned on him and attacked his character as if 2005 and 2006 never happened.

  6. Mark Schreiber says:

    JC, Clearly you did not see Jones play in 2008.  I watched many Dodger games last year and trust me, you can not imagine how bad Jones looked.  I have been an avid baseball (and particularly Dodgers) fan for nearly forty years and have NEVER seen a major league player look so bad, let alone one with Jones’ pedigree.  I have read statistical analysis that this was the worst season in ML history (for a player with over 100 AB) and I have no problem believing it.  Jones did nothing at an acceptable level, including play defense.  He flails at breaking pitches, he tries to pull everything, he cannot make contact, he cannot move a runner over, he looks atrociously lost at the plate.  It is appalling that the Dodgers are on the hook for his 2009 salary, deferred or not.  If any team picks him up, even at the league minimum it’s a waste of their time and money.  This guy is way past expiration date.