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Andruw Jones: Biggest Bust in Free Agent History?

July 19th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I certainly want to say, “yes, of course he is.” Particularly among the position players. But the competition is a bit stiffer than one might think.

One source I stumbled across lists the “top five” busts for a 10-year period going back from 2007.

That list includes three pitchers, however, and pitchers are notoriously difficult to predict, so much of their value coming from a very limited number of highly stressed muscles, ligaments and joints.

Those three pitchers are … Kevin Brown, Chan Ho Park and Mike Hampton.

The “bottom five” includes just two position players:

Albert Belle and Mo Vaughn.

Belle got $65 million over five years (from Baltimore) and was out of baseball after only two seasons. Vaughn was signed by the Angels to a six-year, $80 million contract but played only three seasons and 27 games in a fourth before he was done.

In terms of long-term investments, both those guys have Andruw Jones (two years, $36.1 million) beaten.

But both guys contributed something. Actually, more than a little bit of something, if for a fairly short period of time. (Check out Belle’s career stats here and Vaughn’s career stats here.)

Note that both guys weren’t even in ball when their contracts ended. But also note that each put up a couple of years of numbers that are far, far beyond Andruw Jones’ grasp.

In Belle’s two seasons with the Orioles (1999, 2000), he hit 60 home runs with 220 RBI, scored 179 runs and hit 73 doubles. Sure, he was done after that, but that (at least) was two seasons of some fairly serious something. His value being severely overstated only when a bad hip drove him from the game.

In Vaughn’s two seasons with the Angels (1999, 2000), he hit 69 home runs with 225 RBI, 156 runs and 51 doubles. Plus, another mitigating factor here is … that $80 million in pain was divided between two teams, with the Angels forking over the first $24 million, the Mets the other $56 million (when they traded Kevin Appier to the Angels for Mo).

But now let’s look at Andruw Jones. Who not only isn’t living up to expectations … he’s not living up to major-league journeyman competence.

This is a guy who not only doesn’t help the Dodgers win … but remains a steady, Angel Berroa-style drain on the offense. The Dodgers would be better if he went out with some major injury because 99 percent of guys in Triple-A (even Double-A) could hardly do worse.

To recap his current numbers: two homers, 10 RBI, 19 runs, six doubles, a .162 batting average and a .262 on-base percentage in 167 at-bats over 54 games.

That is beyond disappointing. That is beyond bad. That is horrendous. For Jones to get back to the infamous Mendoza Line (a .200 BA), ‘Druw would have to go 8-for-8. Which would be some feat, considering that he’s had as many as two hits in a game only three times this season, in 54 games.

Curiously, the Dodgers are slightly better in games in which he has made at least one plate appearance (27-26), vs. those he has not (20-23).

A teeny portion of that might be his defense, which has been decent — better than Matt Kemp or Juan Pierre, certainly but, also, nowhere near the Gold Glove quality he had in his Atlanta years.

The Dodgers won a game in which he started, last night, but he did worse than nothing. He struck out twice and committed an error that led to an Arizona run.

What makes Andruw Jones a bust of such epic proportions is how he has done absolutely nothing in what is approaching the first third of his Dodgers career. With the apparent hopelessness of any and all of his at-bats leaving us wondering 1) how he can dream of escaping this three-month slump and 2) how he ever might have hit 50 home runs (2005) or 40 (2006) or even 26 (last year).

That guy is gone. And the Dodgers are giving him $18 million for each of two seasons in which he isn’t just falling short of the mark, he is a malignant tumor on their lineup.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti had just enough wit not to sign him to a long contract. (Though not enough wit to keep from making him one of the highest-paid players, these next two seasons, in ball.)

So he doesn’t have that “$80 million mistake” thing going on that Mo Vaughn does … but Andruw Jones to date has done nothing … nothing … to mitigate the magnitude of the Dodgers disaster that was signing him. If he starts turning it on this minute (which seems impossible) … he won’t recoup his 2008 investment.

He is so bad that now he is rather like a science experiment. We can only sit back and marvel and wonder “how awful can this guy be?”

Oh, and last night? He left the game with “flu-like symptoms.” If the Dodgers are lucky, he’ll be too queasy to get back into the lineup for days. And maybe his bat will be too weak to reinsert in the 6 hole until he’s done, oh, a month at Triple-A and shown he can consistently hit professional pitchers.

For now, yes, he is my personal choice for worst free-agent signing, all-time, position player.


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jacob Pomrenke // Jul 20, 2008 at 3:08 am

    I am glad … as a Braves fan … that I will always have great memories of Andruw Jones, watching him close-up for most of a decade in Atlanta.

    Can’t even fathom how Dodgers fans must feel. But he’s still one of my favorite players, and I hope one day y’all get to see the guy I’ll always remember. Hopefully.

  • 2 Druw // Oct 27, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks Jacob but as a Dodgers fan — im not gonna count on it. The guy strikes out with bases loaded and has the nerve to smile.

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