It’s been an uncharacteristically slow offseason for the Yankees, at least in terms of bringing in players from other teams. How easily we forget that they gave out the fourth largest pitching contract in baseball history a few weeks ago. The Yankees brought back another one of their 2011 players late last week, agreeing to a one-year deal with Andruw Jones. He’ll earn a $2 million base salary with another $1.4 million available in incentives.
Most of us remember Jones from his days with the Braves, when he was hitting 30+ homers annually and playing a historically great center field, but he hasn’t been that player in five calendar years now. He’s effectively carved out a second career as a platoon corner outfielder after his disastrous stint with the Dodgers, producing a .356 wOBA and 3.7 WAR in 266 games and 881 plate appearances split between the Rangers, White Sox, and Yankees from 2009-2011. It’s a .367 wOBA and 3.1 WAR over the last two years, and most of that damage has come against southpaws: .401 wOBA vs. LHP and .336 wOBA vs. RHP. He’s walking more than ever before (13.5% from ’09-’11 after 9.9% from ’96-’08), and the advanced metrics generally approve of his defense in the corner spots (though the sample sizes are problematic).
Jones hit a home run in his first plate appearance of the season in 2011, but he fell into a prolonged slump after that and carried a .195/.278/.356 batting line (.231/.315/.446 vs. LHP) into the All-Star break. He came out and hit two homers in his first game of the second half, then kept raking the rest of the way. Sure enough, he made an adjustment after receiving some unsolicited advice during the break. I’ll let Jones explain (starts at 1:03 mark)…
I guess it doesn’t matter how great of a career you’ve had, mothers always know best. Andruw looked at some old tape at Mama Jones’ behest, widened his stance, then produced a .291/.416/.612 batting line (.344/.452/.639 vs. LHP) while hitting balls into the third deck at Target Field in the second half. His batted ball profile didn’t change dramatically, though he did start to hit a few more line drives following the mother suggested adjustment…
Second half Andruw is the guy the Yankees hope they’re going to get in 2012, as they look to occasionally spell Brett Gardner (.290 wOBA vs. LHP in 2011) and Curtis Granderson (.400 wOBA vs. LHP, though his turn around is another post for another time) against the AL East’s tough lefties.
Interestingly enough, Jones didn’t even take a raise from the Yankees. He made the same $2 million base salary last year, and failed to trigger any of the $1.2 million in incentives (which were based on plate appearances). I guess when you’ve banked over $100 million in your career, modest raises at age 34 are insignificant. For what it’s worth, other clubs did offer Jones a higher base salary according to ESPN NY, but he took less money to return to New York.
The Yankees aren’t exactly known for their bench players these days, but part of the reason why they were so dominant in late-90’s was because they were bringing guys like Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry off the bench. Jones is cut from a similar cloth as those two, a former star who’s clearly past his prime but still productive in a reduced role. When Juan Rivera is getting $4.5 million on a one-year contract, it’s hard to consider this deal anything but a win for the Yankees, even if Jones takes a step back from the .401 wOBA he’s produced against lefties over the last two years.
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