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02/10/09 7:59 PM EST
Rangers make pact official with Andruw
Club signs outfielder to Minors deal despite crowded outfield
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
Andruw Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove center fielder, has officially joined the Rangers, but general manager Jon Daniels said he doesn't see the outfield situation much different than it was two weeks ago. The Rangers still plan on playing David Murphy in left, Josh Hamilton in center and Nelson Cruz in right. They still plan on Marlon Byrd getting substantial playing time in all three spots, and Frank Catalanotto and Brandon Boggs are still in the mix. "On paper, that's still the most likely scenario," Daniels said. "But when you get a guy like Andruw Jones, with his track record and pedigree, on a limited-risk contract to see what he has and protect ourselves against injury and other situations, it's well worth it." The Rangers officially announced Tuesday that they signed Jones and pitcher Brendan Donnelly to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training. Donnelly will compete for a spot in the club's bullpen. Much will depend on what Jones shows in Spring Training and how close he is to the All-Star outfielder who played for the Braves from 1996-2007. Last year, he was with the Dodgers after signing a two-year, $36.2 million contract, and he put together a forgettable season. Jones hit .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 75 games, and his defense was far below his high standards with the Braves. Off the field, Jones had to deal with torn cartilage in his right knee that put him on the disabled list three times and required surgery. He also appeared overweight, out-of-shape and disinterested. The Dodgers finally released him in January, despite still owing more than $21 million on his contract. Jones, 31, was a five-time All-Star with the Braves and the 2005 winner of the National League's Hank Aaron Award when he batted .263 with 51 home runs and 128 RBIs. He finished second in the NL MVP voting behind Albert Pujols that season. He has had five seasons with at least 100 RBIs and another four with at least 90 RBIs. Defensively, no peer in the game matched him during his Atlanta years, and Jones is one of 15 players in Major League history who have won at least 10 Gold Gloves. The Rangers signed him to a $500,000 contract with $1 million possible in incentives. They have also made him no promises about making the team, and he could become a free agent if he's not on the Major League roster by March 20. "We've communicated our situation and expectations clearly with Andruw," Daniels said. "He understands this is a second chance to show his commitment and work ethic. Over the last few years he has fallen off in his level of production, but it's a no-risk deal for us. We have a veteran group of quality outfielders and some young guys behind them. He's got to come in and compete for a job. I don't see a downside." Daniels said signing Jones was not made with the idea of moving Hamilton to right field, although the idea has been broached within the organization. "At some point in his career that's a possibility, but that has to make sense in the context of all the players in the picture," Daniels said. "As I sit here today, I expect him to be the Opening Day center fielder." Cruz will enter camp as the Rangers' right fielder, and Daniels said that hasn't changed. Cruz was the Pacific Coast League's Most Valuable Player in 2008, when he hit .342 with 37 home runs and 99 RBIs in 103 games for Triple-A Oklahoma. He continued that production at the big league level, where he hit .330 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 31 games for the Rangers late in the season. "I was very impressed with him last year," Daniels said. "He cleared waivers [at the beginning of the season] and was sent down, but he put his head down and put together an outstanding season. Even though he could have been called up earlier than [that], he never complained and continued to do a great job right up to being called up to the big leagues. He never looked back. "I'm looking forward to him doing that for a whole season. Certainly nothing in life comes with a guarantee, but he's in a position where it's his job to lose."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.