If this was 2006, one could considered this a blockbuster signing. But three years is a long time in Major League Baseball and in those three years, the 10-time Gold-Glover has seen his stock plummet.
A five-tool-player once destined for the hallowed halls, is no longer. Currently Jones is relegated to sharing outfield duty on an aging White Sox team.
In 2006, Jones led the Atlanta Braves with 41 home runs and 129 RBI. In the four years since, he has combined to hit 46 homers to go with 147 RBI.
Financially, the Sox spent roughly $500,000 with $1 million in performance bonuses, they announced on Wednesday.
Was this a good move for an aging club that ranks 16th oldest in the MLB? Is this a planned strategic move for a team that is already thin in the outfield with the recent buyout of Jermaine Dye? Dye, who has been a staple in right field for the Sox for the past five years, was contractually bought out for $950,000.
The White Sox outfield is full of questions marks. Alex Rios, was released by the Toronto Blue Jays because of unfulfilled expectations. Carlos Quentin has struggled since a self-inflicted wrist-injury, plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and ensuing right knee soreness bothered him throughout the 2009 season. Also in the mix is journeyman outfielder/first baseman Mark Kotsay.
Included in this outfield cluster is Scott Podsednik, whose future remains unclear as contract negotiations have been at a stalemate for some time. His presence on the team does give the club a veteran presence and one who remains from the 2005 World Series squad.
What exactly happened to Jones? Why did a career with such promise take a turn for the worse? Courtesy of Fan Graphs, we can try to solve the puzzle, one that so few have been able to crack.
A negative that has followed Jones’ around his whole career is plate discipline.
Swinging at the first pitch and swinging at sliders out of the strike zone. Specifically, Z-Contact % – (Percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown inside the strike zone).
In 2005 and 2006 arguably his best seasons as a pro, Jones made contact with pitches inside the strike-zone 83.3 percent of the time. In the three years since, that number has dropped nearly three full percentage points to 80.73 percent. For a player who swings at pitches out of the strike zone at almost the highest percentage rate in his career, discipline is a constant issue and the numbers do it justice.
In the last seven seasons, he is seeing less strikes per plate appearance, yet is swinging at more pitches outside of the zone (26.57 percent) than compared to his final days with the Braves from 2004-2007 (21.9 percent).
Clearly, the issues that were apparent early in his career are elevated the more he struggles. Jones does have qualities that many organizations need, such as a power hitter in the middle of their line-up.
In 2009 Jones had what one can a rejuvenation of sorts, a brief flashback for a player that many had written off. His skills may have diminished and the toll of 13 seasons are showing, but in a part-time role with the Texas Rangers in 09’, Jones still managed to club 17 home runs in 281 at-bats. Thats a home run every 16.5 plate appearances.
Is this signing the correct move? We may not have a clear answer until midway through the season, but an athlete is always an athlete and pride can sometimes overcome someone’s shortcomings.
As any sports fan knows, statistics, no matter how defining, do not always tell the whole story.
Devon Teeple is an author for the Business of Sports Network, which includes the Biz of Baseball, the Biz of Football, the Biz of Basketball and the Biz of Hockey. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Devon is also available for hire or freelance opportunities.
Devon is a former student within Sports Management Worldwide’s Baseball General Manager Class. Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective and is a intern with The Football Outsiders and contributor with the Plymouth River Eels.