Andruw Jones and the Nationals

When we last considered the idea of the Nats signing Andruw Jones, it was April and he seemed in line for a six or seven year contract.  The idea of bringing in Andruw was to create some goodwill with the fans through some rebuilding years, a la the Gil Meche signing in Kansas City.  The consensus of the commenters at MLBTR was that this was a bad idea.

Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times re-started this conversation yesterday.  He notes that center field is still the Nats’ most obvious need.  Sorry, Nook.  Of course there’s the Stan Kasten connection and the new ballpark.   

However there is now one difference from our April discussion: Jones had an awful 2007 season.  His .314 OBP and .419 SLG are both his second-worst career marks.  Overall in his career he’s at .263/.342/.498.  I’d expect something more like that next year.

Andruw will be 31 when the ’07 season starts.  Given the decent-sized class of free agent center fielders, Scott Boras may apply an old tactic and get Jones a make-good one-year, $15MM deal to rebuild his value.  But many clubs could entertain a low-risk type offer, and maybe someone would cough up $20MM. 

We’ve seen one-year deals in the past when clients didn’t get the offers their agents wanted.  Examples:

  • Ivan Rodriguez isn’t the perfect example I’d originally thought.  Back in the winter of 2002-03, Rodriguez was 31 and coming off a strong season – .314/.353/.542 in 408 ABs.  His agent was Jeff Moorad at the time.  The Cubs and Orioles had interest, with the O’s offering three years at $6MM per.  Pudge wanted $11MM annually, and even bluffed about playing in Japan.  Eventually he went to the Marlins for one-year, $10MM, and led them to glory.  The Fish thought about offering 3/21 after that but Rodriguez switched to Boras and got 4/40 from Detroit.
  • Jeff Weaver had a strong 2005 season for the Dodgers, racking up his second consecutive 220 inning season and winning 14 games.  Interest was strangely tepid, so Weaver went to the Angels for $8.4MM and one year.  At that time it seemed like a nice move for L.A.  World Series heroics couldn’t snag Weaver a big contract last offseason, so he signed the same one-year deal with Seattle.  He should really try to rebuild his value in the NL.
  • The strategy worked perfectly for Kevin Millwood.  Elbow issues cut his 2004 season short so he jumped to the Tribe for one year and $7MM in ’05.  All he did for the Indians was win the AL ERA title.  That earned him a big ol’ 5/60 deal from Texas.   
  • Bengie Molina was coming off his best year, a .295/.336/.446 performance for the Angels in 2005.  The Mets apparently offered him 3/18, but then traded for Paul Lo Duca.  Other suitors dropped out and Molina had to sign with Toronto for one year, $5MM in February.  He had another good year and the Giants liked him for 3/16 the following offseason.

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