L.A. does a 180
Jones signing puts Dodgers in enviable position
Posted: Thursday December 6, 2007 3:11PM; Updated: Thursday December 6, 2007 3:40PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was just past 4:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, on the third day of baseball's supposedly freewheeling winter meetings, and Ned Colletti sat in front of a handful of reporters in his hotel suite, looking and sounding decidedly pessimistic. Or maybe it was realistic. Whatever, the Dodgers' general manager, who had come to Tennessee to try to fill holes in his rotation and in his outfield, certainly seemed ... disappointed.
Maybe eight hours later, on a walkway just outside of a lobby bar at the biospheric Opryland Hotel, superagent Scott Boras was in a different mood altogether. He had just finished negotiating a two-year, $36.2 million agreement for center fielder Andruw Jones to play for the Dodgers. It was a stunning contract in a couple of ways: big on annual average value and short on years.
That's how quickly the fortunes of Jones, Boras and the Dodgers changed on one night in Nashville.
"We weren't that close," a much more chipper Colletti said on Thursday morning in recalling his early negotiations with Boras to get Jones to L.A. "It was the meetings [on Wednesday night] that bought the deal."
It's a deal the completely transforms the Dodgers' offseason outlook. Colletti came to Nashville with high hopes, looking for a starting pitcher and a power-hitting center fielder to replace the light-armed and light-hitting Juan Pierre . Now, with Jones in the fold and a surplus of outfielders, L.A. is in a position to put together a package to trade for a proven starter.
The Dodgers have shown interest in Japanese free-agent righty Hiroki Kuroda. But they should be able to package an outfielder -- Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp (Pierre now moves to left, becomes a backup or heads out of town) -- with one of their highly considered prospects to land a veteran pitcher. On Wednesday, Colletti was seen ducking around a corner at the hotel to take part in a brief conversation with A's GM Billy Beane. Oakland's Dan Haren is reportedly available. Other prominent pitchers on the trade market include the Orioles' Erik Bedard and Minnesota ace Johan Santana.
Colletti wouldn't address specific players under contract to other teams, but he admitted that the signing of Jones could be just the start of something big for the Dodgers. "It gives us some more options, perhaps," he said. "That said, we're not going to do something just to do something."
This agreement happened like many do, with one side making a major concession and one not quite as big. For weeks Boras had insisted that he wanted only a long-term contract for his client, a 10-time Gold Glove winner for the Braves. That issue proved to be such a sticking point that even after a get-together with Jones earlier this offseason at Dodger Stadium, Colletti came here considering a Jones deal as a longshot.
Shortly after Colletti's meeting with reporters on Wednesday night, though, he and Boras sat down for the fifth or sixth time of the meetings and Boras finally relented. Around the bar later, Boras gave his first public indication -- after the fact -- that Jones would go short-term, saying he would if it was with a "competitive" team.
It turned out that Jones had gone for a surprisingly short-term deal, but one for so much money that Boras can boast that its annual average value surpasses the five-year, $90 million contract that the top free-agent center fielder of the winter, Torii Hunter, signed with the Angels. Meanwhile, Colletti and the Dodgers got what they wanted, a two-year commitment (although they'll pay a signing bonus into 2010) that keeps their roster much more flexible. "It's just how I would rather do business," Colletti said. "It's not the money as much as the years."
Back on Wednesday afternoon, with the Jones talks at a standstill and nothing else even close to being resolved, a downcast Colletti said that the anticipation of the winter meetings "is greater than the reality." The truth now is that the Dodgers, with a better defense, more power in their lineup and more chips to deal, are a lot better off than when they came here.
And Colletti is clearly a lot happier.