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Andruw Jones to the White Sox

According to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, the Chicago White Sox have come to terms with Andruw Jones on a one-year, $500K contract with $1M in possible incentives.

Jones famously fell of the face of the Earth after inking a two-year, $36.2M deal with the Dodgers prior to the 2008 season. His wOBA in L.A. was a macabre .234. In just 238 PA with the men in blue, Jones managed to post -17.9 Park Adjusted Batting Runs.

Forced to take a minor league deal from the Rangers before the 2009 season (the Dodgers paid him to go far, far away), Jones was essentially a league-average batter in Arlington.

In 331 PA, Andruw batted .214/.323/.459. His wOBA was .338. After adjusting for the hitter-friendly nature of The Ballpark in Arlington, Jones posted +1.5 Batting Runs. He worked the count well (13.8 BB%), while crushing fastballs for a +1.28 run value per 100 pitches. Off-speed stuff caught him flat-footed, however: -1.25 runs/100 vs. sliders, -0.65 vs. curveballs and -0.41 vs. changeups.

Jones had just a .224 BABIP in 2009. The gut reaction is to say “fluke!” But Andruw’s BABIP since 2005 is .248. His career BABIP is .279.

Why might that be? Well, Jones hits a lot of fly balls. Andruw’s 49.5 FB% in 2009 was 12th-highest among batters with 300 or more PA. While fly balls are obviously beneficial to a slugger like Jones, they do have a lower BABIP than grounders. Also, Andruw pops the ball up frequently. His IF/FB% was 13.3 in 2009. Pop ups are near automatic outs.

Odds are, the 32 year-old won’t continue to post a BABIP in the .220’s. But his batted ball profile and track record suggest that he probably won’t see that BABIP skyrocket, either.

Still, Jones constitutes a nice, low-cost investment for the White Sox. He still has quality secondary skills (walks and power), and he’s guaranteed next to nothing in terms of salary. Bill James’ projections forecast a .335 wOBA for Andruw in 2010, while CHONE spits out a less-optimistic .323 mark.

The MLB.com article quotes White Sox GM Kenny Williams:

“This is an opportunity to add a power bat to the roster while improving our outfield depth,” White Sox general manager Ken Williams said in a statement. “With the addition of Andruw, Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel, we feel our bench is taking shape to be a strong asset heading into the 2010 season.”

Clearly, Chicago is not anticipating giving everyday AB’s to Jones next year. As a DH, he would basically be replacement-level. But if you feel that Andruw could play, say, +5 run defense in an outfield corner (he has a superb track record and hasn’t embarrassed himself in limited time in ’08 and ’09), he could be a league-average starter.

Jones is worth tracking as spring training approaches. The White Sox are looking at him as a depth signing, but the club is currently without a right fielder. And LF Carlos Quentin, slowed by Plantar fasciitis in 2009, has a career -5.3 UZR/150 between the outfield corners.

Andruw could be a fall-back option if other RF candidates aren’t appealing or if the Pale Hose give Quentin more time at DH. If he gets enough playing time, Jones still has enough bat to stay relevant in A.L.-only leagues.