It’s Time to Bring Down the Hindenburg

Something must be done. There’s no way around it, no matter how painful it might be. You know it, and I know it. It’s like a band-aid. Just rip it off! Andruw Jones cannot be a Dodger in 2009. This is, of course, nothing new, since most of us haven’t really wanted him to be a Dodger since about, oh, April 2, 2008. Clearly, you don’t need me to recap the historical abomination that was his 2008 season, other than that to say the rate in which he stole money from the Dodgers was basically criminal. Really, I think the saddest thing about Jones’ year was the fact that I considered what would be more valuable – Jones playing like he did for the insane amount of money he makes, or myself playing every day for the minimum (hey, I could probably get two or three lucky hits a month)  – and realizing that there’s actually reason to look into it.

But you think to yourself, “there’s just no way that someone as great as he was could have fallen that far, that fast. It’s basically unprecedented, and there still has to be a chance that he’s so embarassed by last year that he gets himself into better shape in the offseason and comes ready to play.” You would hope for that, and you would be wrong, because in the winter leagues he’s currently got just three singles against eight strikeouts, in sixteen at-bats. You think it can’t get worse? Thanks to Gil Miguel’s helpful Dominican updates over at the BBWC, we’ve got this from a DR paper:

Guillén sería la contraparte de Andruw Jones, que le hace un favor a los contrarios cuando está en la alineación.

Which roughly translates to “Andruw Jones does a favor to the opposition every time he’s in the lineup.” Remember, we’re not talking about facing Jake Peavy in PetCo Park, here. This is a league in which Jones’ teammate (and recent Dodger minor-league signee) Hector Luna has already parked 7 balls out of the yard – and this is a guy with 11 homers in 703 career MLB at bats. If Jones is getting overmatched down there, what possible hope does he have in the bigs? No me gusta!

So this is what it’s come down to, then. He has to be elsewhere, anywhere, by Opening Day. No matter what, it’s going to cost the Dodgers an enormous amount of money and embarassment, but we can at least minimize the onfield damage, since there’s just no way he’s going to contribute. Below this hilariously bad yet completely accurate Photoshop joke, we’ll take a look at the options.

Keep him.
Hah! Just kidding. Besides for the very obvious fact that he’s probably a worse hitter than Hong-Chih Kuo right now, he’ll be very unhappy sitting on the bench, and that will just cause more problems. I would much rather have Jason Repko happily playing all three positions, pinch-running, plus being a more dangerous bat, than I would seeing Jones mope around all season.

Cut him. Tempting. Very, very tempting, and it would be the quickest end to this saga. But it’s ultimately pointless, because then you’re still on the hook for every penny of the $22.1m still due him, while setting him free for some other team to sign him for the minimum and give him a chance to turn things around. If we could save even a few dollars by doing this, I’d be all for it, but there’s just not much upside here – at least to start the season.

Trade him. Clearly, this would be the most desirable outcome, but unfortunately it’s also the least likely. We all did somersaults when we read the rumors about talks with the Mets yesterday, even though we knew from the start it wasn’t going to go anywhere. There’s only three ways a deal gets done: 1) if Colletti eats almost 100% of the salary, which sort of defeats the purpose, 2) if the Dodgers throw in good prospects to reduce the money they have to eat, which already worked out disastrously to save $2m in the Casey Blake deal, or 3) if the Dodgers take back a bad contract in return. In the case of the Mets, that means 2B Luis Castillo, who was foolishly signed to a 4-year deal before 2008, only to spend most of the season injured or ineffective (below average both offensively and defensively according to FanGraphs). Castillo makes $6m over each of the next three seasons and at 33, is unlikely to bounce back. Even better, the Dodgers have no use for him, since he’s not a utility player (he only plays 2B), and the Dodgers have Blake DeWitt and Mark Loretta at the position with Chin-Lung Hu and Ivan DeJesus in reserve. But the one thing Castillo does have is that his bad deal is spread out over three more seasons, allowing for some more flexibilty this year. Would I trade Jones and his $22.1m remaining for Castillo and his $18m remaining, plus throw in $5-6m to make up the difference? Possibly, if only for the payroll manuevering. But I think we all know there’s no way this deal is happening.

Shoot him. They put down horses, don’t they?

Demote him. I know, I know - the team can’t do this without Jones’ consent, as he has more than five years service time in the bigs. He would have every right to decline this move and force the club to either release him or keep him on the active roster. But you know what? I don’t know that he’d be against this, at least initially. He gets his money no matter what, so that’s not an issue. I think if the Dodgers said to him, “look, you’re not going to be a big part of this team right now. You’re going to sit on the bench, maybe get some pinch-hit at-bats at best, and that’s no way to get your career turned around. You need to play every day and we can’t offer that to you right now” he might consider it. After all, he was pretty successful in his short stint in AAA last year (.323/.361/.710 with 4 HR in 31 AB), so it seems that the opportunity to go down there to get his confidence back while beating up on minor leaguers is what’s best for both him and the Dodgers. If he proves he can still hit, maybe he can be useful in LA – or maybe it would facilitate a deal. Either way, this is better than releasing him because you still hold on to the 0.5% chance he turns it around without hurting the Dodgers every day.