Late Thursday afternoon, after nearly an entire offseason of position-player inactivity, Yankee GM Brian Cashman inked the former Braves superstar to a one-year, $2 million contract, with another $1.2 million in additional performance-based incentives. After bolstering their bullpen with top-shelf relief arms, the Yankees' acquisition of Andruw Jones fills the hole left by the late (not so) great Marcus Thames.
Jones, who turns 34 in April, is coming off a strong campaign in 2010 in which he hit .230/.341/.486 with 19 home runs in limited duty for the Chicago White Sox. A longtime fan favorite in Atlanta, Jones combined both power and speed to create one of the most dynamic players baseball had ever seen. After a somewhat disappointing (to say the absolute least) 2008 where he hit .158/.256/.249 for the L.A. Dodgers, Jones has resurrected his career as a fourth outfielder and designated hitter. His most notable achievement, however, is primarily defensive in nature.
Looking at Andruw’s Baseball-Reference.com page, the more casual fan might notice 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and consider him a very good outfielder—but even that’s selling him short. According to the advanced statistic known as defensive wins above replacement (dWAR), Jones is quite literally the greatest defensive center fielder in baseball history.
If you're like the majority of baseball fans, dWAR might be a little foreign to you. The statistic is based upon something called TotalZone—which is derived from detailed accounts of each and every game played since 1953. Over Andruw’s career, he has been worth over 240 runs above the replacement-level center fielder—replacement-level meaning a normal AAA player, or bench option. Those 240 runs put Andruw ahead of some of the most legendary defenders of all time—people like Ozzie Smith, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. The only player who was worth more than the newest Yankee was former Baltimore Oriole Brooks Robinson, who is the consensus greatest third baseman ever.
The Yankees expect Jones to be their fourth outfielder, and the reserve designated hitter against left-handed pitching.
Author's Note: This was intended for my school newspaper—hence the rudimentary explanation of dWAR.
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