Bridging the Gap

The following entry marks the return of Deputy Dog after a year plus absence. Always good for a fresh point of view and never shy to take a not-so-popular stance, look out for more consistent posts from our first (and at this point, only) staff writer. Enjoy.

There is a glaring hole in centerfield in the South Bronx .

By all accounts, blue chip outfield prospect Austin Jackson will not be ready for the major leagues until 2010. So we wait.

Melky Cabrera is, well, Melky Cabrera. Someone said to me last season that he underperformed hitting .249 when the truth is, Cabrera is a .250 hitter. Period. He is certainly not the guy you want playing one of the prestige positions in the state-of-the-art Mecca that will open this April.

While the global economy is in a recession Hank and Hal Steinbrenner have given the preverbal middle finger to the rest of Major League Baseball. Still, it's never bad to shop for a bargain.

Keeping all that in mind, there is one fool-proof way to wait for Austin Jackson, while upgrading from the mess that is Melky Cabrera, while at the same time putting a name player in a prestige position for the most storied franchise in sports and do it at a bargain. The answer, my friends, is Andruw Jones.

Mr. Jones is scheduled to make $15 million in 2009 but he has restructured his deal with the Dodgers so that his 2009 cost is only $6 million and the sides are prepared for a mutual split. Bargain.

Jones only played in 75 games in 2008 but he is a Scott Boras client so his motivation cannot be questioned as he looks for his next contract. Incentive.

Jones won 10 straight gold gloves from 1998 to 2007 and was highly regarded as the best defensive center fielder in the game. If he even returns to a fraction of that form he is twice the player Melky Cabrera will ever be. Upside.

Jones is a career .268 hitter with an OBP of .339 though his power potential is massive having hit a career 371 home runs with a career slugging percentage of .489 and 1131 RBI. Jones hit 26 home runs or more in 9 straight seasons from 1999 to 2007 and he has driven in 90 or more runs 9 times. This will also provide excellent protection for Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, something Cabrera will never do. Upgrade.

Jones only has one year left on his contract, making him a versatile option. If he underperforms, then he is gone by the time Jackson is ready to take over or we identify that Jackson is not the answer and we can acquire a long-term CF solution. If he performs and Jackson isn't ready, he could be the answer with a 3 year extension or if Jackson is ready, Jones could make a solid RF in the twilight of his career. Low-Risk.

So why hasn't this happened already? The downside to Jones is that everyone remembers what they see last and his 2008 season was a trainwreck. Joe Torre is not a motivating manager and Jones did not seem to fit in Dodger blue. Jones played in a career low 75 games due to knee injuries, while he had played in no fewer than 153 games from 1997-2007. Conditioning guru Joe Girardi and Yankee pinstripes might be just what the doctor ordered to resuscitate the career and value of Mr. Jones, while at the same time getting the Yankees through 2009 on the cheap.

Problem solved.

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