12/07/07 1:51 AM ET
Jones offers Dodgers plenty of options
LA could look to deal Kemp for starting pitcher or retain depth
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Consider what is now possible after Colletti filled the gaping hole in his batting order without dealing any prospects, signing Jones to a two-year, $36.2 million deal. It includes a signing bonus of $12.2 million, including $200,000 to be donated to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, spread over the term and salaries of $9 million and $15 million. The deal is contingent on Jones passing a physical exam early next week.
Colletti now has four outfielders for three spots and can trade the coveted Matt Kemp for a front-line pitcher like Erik Bedard or Dan Haren. If he can sign Japanese free-agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, Colletti can keep Kemp and let manager Joe Torre shuffle Juan Pierre and Andre Ethier as left fielders, or trade one of those two players.
Perhaps the most intriguing of all options -- assuming he lands Kuroda -- Colletti can still use Kemp as the key piece of a deal for someone like Bedard, going all-in with pitching for a new manager who talks of nothing else. Imagine a staff of Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Kuroda and Bedard. There wouldn't even be room for Jason Schmidt or Esteban Loaiza.
"This makes our quest for starting pitching even more focused and perhaps even more possible," said Colletti, who reiterated he won't package three or four players for one, again killing thoughts of a Johan Santana deal.
The addition of Jones' offense leaves Colletti more comfortable turning third base over to either Andy LaRoche or Nomar Garciaparra, although he could deal for an upgrade there. Scott Rolen of St. Louis is available (although that could be a problem considering his history with new third-base coach Larry Bowa).
"I don't want to use what I may have to use for pitching to take care of [third base]," Colletti said.
All of this is the result of Colletti deciding weeks ago to abandon a pursuit of Miguel Cabrera or Santana that would shred the youth movement and instead focus on a short-term deal for Jones, whose market was anticipated to be limited because of a subpar season.
Colletti brought the center fielder and agent Scott Boras to Dodger Stadium for a meeting with owner Frank McCourt, and through three days of negotiations with Boras at the Winter Meetings, sold Jones on the short-term concept that allows the 30-year-old another bite at the free-agent apple while still in his prime.
So much for suggestions that Colletti couldn't work with Boras after messy dealings over J.D. Drew and Luke Hochevar.
"Jones' desire to play in L.A. was a huge component of this," said Colletti.
Prior to the Winter Meetings, Colletti thought the chance of landing Jones "was zero" because Jones was demanding too much money and too many years. By the time the Winter Meetings opened, Jones' other options were basically Kansas City and Texas, and he wanted to stay in the National League.
Meanwhile, Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal was given the green light to place recruiting phone calls to Jones, his best-friend teammate when they played together in Atlanta.
"I told him, 'You've got his [phone] number. Go for it.' I don't think it hurt," said Colletti.
Clearly, Colletti believes Jones' 2007 season -- his worst ever with a .222 average, 26 homers and 94 RBIs -- is an aberration. Others believe Jones' swing was impacted by a hyper-extended left elbow he suffered trying to reach for a ball hit over the fence.
"We still see him as a great player," Colletti said. "Some people say he's not the same player he was five, six years ago. We'll find out if he is or isn't. He's probably still the best center fielder in the National League.
"In what was an off-year, he had power numbers some players would look at as a career year. He's 30 years old. He has talent and desire and passion to play all the time. It's a very good opportunity for us. We put his spray chart on an overlay of Dodger Stadium and it looked fine to me. A lot of balls landed over the fence."
Colletti said he left a phone message and sent an e-mail to Pierre, who was signed to a five-year, $44 million contract last year to be the center fielder. Colletti wanted to explain the Jones acquisition.
However, here's what Pierre said on the final day of the season when asked if he would be willing to change positions should the club acquire Jones:
"We'll see. He's probably the best center fielder in the game. I'm not to his caliber."
Colletti, meanwhile, defended his acquisition of Pierre. At the time, after Drew left via an opt-out clause, the only outfielder with any Major League experience was Ethier, with five months of service time.
"I don't regret it. You can't look back on what you do," Colletti said. "It's easy to go back and rewrite history. I did what I needed to do. With Pierre, you know what you're getting, and he was right on the mark. The way the team in '07 performed was not Juan Pierre's fault. Other players don't produce in the clutch, people get frustrated and you look at everybody. I never said Juan Pierre was a franchise player. He's a very good player on a winning team."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.