Andruw Jones, one of the spectacular busts in free-agent history, likely became a free agent again Thursday evening, when the Los Angeles Dodgers asked waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release, a year and a month after he signed a two-year, $36.2-million contract.
Earlier this month, Jones agreed to defer much of the $21.1 million left on his contract. In return, the Dodgers would trade or release him by the end of business Thursday, allowing Jones to flee the boos that first followed his every at-bat in L.A., then spread to pregame announcements of his presence in the lineup.
Jones will go unclaimed, of course. And his 13-month, 75-game stay with the Dodgers – short and painful for all – is over. Fearing a repeat performance and the daily distraction that his return no doubt would engender, the Dodgers swallowed the remainder of the contract.
"The whole presentation was disappointing," Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said Thursday. "We've got good scouts, the people that saw him play. The recommendations were across the board that he'd be someone who could help us in the middle of the lineup and in the middle of the field. And we never saw it at any point. Obviously, this is a huge disappointment for all of us."
The move allows the Dodgers some immediate financial flexibility, more than $13 million in 2009 alone, or enough to help in the signings of Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake and Mark Loretta. They also continue to pursue another starting pitcher, having identified Randy Wolf, Jon Garland and Braden Looper. They also continue to negotiate with agent Scott Boras for left fielder Manny Ramirez. Boras also represents Jones, whose production and attitude with the Dodgers might make for a difficult free agency.
Not surprisingly, the trade market for Jones, who arrived flabby to the Dodgers last February, then batted .158 and drove in 14 runs and eventually succumbed to knee surgery, was equally flaccid. Jones seems to believe a return to the Braves would be his best tack. For the past few weeks, however, the Braves could have had Jones cheap, and passed. The Mets might take a shot at Jones.
A five-time All-Star who in 2005 finished a close second to Albert Pujols in NL MVP voting, Jones, 31, appears to have lost his game just as he lost his body. Unless he lost his body first, then his swing.
Either way, Jones has been lost at the plate for two seasons, and his first away from Atlanta was particularly disastrous. He also went to the Dominican winter league in December and struggled in a short time there (three singles, eight strikeouts in 16 at-bats) before returning to the States, supposedly for personal reasons.
• Less than a month before teams start reporting to camp, Ramirez, by all appearances, has one lingering offer (Dodgers) and, at best, a vague market (Dodgers, Giants).
• While Boras still has other clients without jobs (Jason Varitek, Oliver Perez, Joe Crede, Ivan Rodriguez, Eric Gagne and now Jones come to mind), the Manny market is the most intriguing. It looks as though the Dodgers have played their postseason well, waiting on market trends to deliver Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake at reasonable costs and now seeming to be in a good position on Ramirez as well.
• Asked about Ramirez and what the coming days could bring, Boras responded generally.
"Baseball markets are like breakfast [juice vs. pancakes]," he wrote. "They have varying degrees of fluidity. This is an Aunt Jemima market, but we know everyone needs a good breakfast to be a winner."
Colletti, an omelet man himself, has often said his preference is to have Ramirez play the next two seasons, and perhaps a third, for the Dodgers.
• Limited to 73 innings over the last two seasons because of shoulder problems (he had surgery in August 2007), free-agent right-hander Freddy Garcia has narrowed his choices to the Yankees, Mets, White Sox and Rangers.