With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report, the Yankees are filling out their roster with role players. Of note, the Yankees are seeking a fourth outfielder that can play the corner outfield positions. Last season, Marcus Thames excelled as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter/righty specialist. This off-season, the Yankees have been tied to Thames and Andruw Jones. Jones, who is entering his 14th season in the Majors, smacked 19 home runs in only 278 at-bats for the Chicago White Sox last season. Jones is no longer the Gold Glove winning, 40+ homer smashing, whiz kid that befuddled the Yankees in the 1996 World Series, but would he help make the 2011 Yankees a better team?

Andruw Jones/Joe Girardi at Yankee Stadium

Over the past few seasons, the Yankees have always had one hitter on their bench that could crush lefty pitching. Last season, the Yankees had Thames. In 130 at-bats against lefties, Thames posted a line of .300/.352/.454 with five home runs. Thames was decent against righties as well posting a line of .268/.347/.549. Thames wasn’t that great defensively, posting a UZR of -4.3 while playing eight games in right field and 25 games in left field. Thames also had the flare for the dramatic, collecting two walk-off hits. However, recent history shows us that the Yankees typically do not bring back role players who were only signed to one-year deals.

Enter the 33-year-old Jones. Jones, who has never won a World Series Championship before, has hit 407 career home runs. Best known for his impressive defensive prowess as a member of the Atlanta Braves, the ten-time Gold Glove winner has never had a season where he recorded a negative UZR. Outside of Jones’ outlier 2008 season, he has recorded at least 278 at-bats and smacked at least 17 home runs in every season.

While Jones has the power and defensive edge over Thames, he has a much smaller sample size against lefty pitching. Jones only had 87 at-bats against lefties last year, posting a line of .256/.373/.558 with eight home runs. Jones hit only .230/.341/.486 against righties, but slugged eleven home runs.

Quick Points:

  • Jones has enjoyed hitting at the new Yankee Stadium. In only 13 at-bats, Jones has smacked two home runs and scored four runs.
  • Jones is represented by Scott Boras. It’s been well-documented that the Yankees and Boras have always had fluid discussion and many past deals (A-Rod, Teixeira, Soriano, etc).
  • Jones is seeking out a one-year deal in the $2 million range. The Tampa Bay Rays are also interested in his services.

Ultimately, I prefer Jones to Thames for the 2011 season. Even though his best playing days are behind him, few players possess the raw talent that Jones has. He is a very good defender, will come relatively cheaply, and is hungry to win. The power is still there and working with Kevin Long will only help him get better. I fully endorse the Yankees signing Jones to a one-year, $1.5-$2 million deal. The upside and talent is too good to pass up at that price.