When Andruw Jones was entering his final season in Atlanta, he was a sure fire megadeal superstar, a perennial Golden Glove winner and a guy who some analysts legitimately felt was the best center fielder in the game. Now? He’s having to defer $12 million of the final year of his contract just to get to a team where he might get on the field.
According to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Jon Heyman, Jones has agreed to defer $12 million of the $20 million owed to him by the Dodgers for his second and final season with the club. The move was made under the guidance of super agent/cash-happy scumbag (depending on how you look at him) Scott Boras and is likely to help two of his clients land in their desired locations, with the Dodgers now able to offer Manny Ramirez a significant deal and Jones finally a tradeable commodity for some team to claim off the scrap heap.
Clearly, this is the most-blatant attempt to clear cash by a team since, well, just pick whichever Marlins trade is your favorite. The method of getting rid of all that money — via deferred payments — is an innovative one, though it’s not completely unique (the Mets deferred the remainder of Bobby Bonilla’s $5.9 million contract when he was put on waivers in 2000 before he landed with the Braves). The aim of all this is fiscal sanity for Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who didn’t want to add $22 million to the team’s payroll. Now, re-signing Manny will likely only cost him an additional $10 million or so, depending on how much of Jones’ contract he has to eat outright to get rid of the face of baseball in Netherlands Antilles.
Of course, all those dollar amounts come before you factor in how much money the Dodgers have already dropped from their payroll — Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Nomar Garciaparra, Joe Beimel and Jeff Kent, to wit — so it’s entirely possible that McCourt could re-sign Ramirez and still have a lower payroll than he bankrolled in 2007.
The Mets have been the team most cited as a future destination for Jones, and his past success playing against the pride of Queens could have been a good reason to sign him, except for the fact that the Mets don’t play in the stadium he used to tear up anymore.
Those concerns don’t seem to be disuading Mets GM Omar Minaya, and if the Dodgers are willing to eat all but $3-5 million of the final year on Jones’ contract, it’s likely you could see him playing against the Braves a whole lot next year, which might be just enough to get under Bobby Cox’s skin. Or maybe it won’t. Hard to tell with all those wrinkles.