Jones v. Thames: The fourth outfielder battle

Steinbrenner statement on the passing of Christina Green
Report: Yankees "stepping up" pursuit of Duchscherer
This won't make Great Moments in Yankee History. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Game 1 of the 1996 World Series was a shocking one for the Yanks and their fans. After a 15-year wait, the Bombers were back in the Fall Classic, but the Braves knocked around Andy Pettitte. Some 19-year-old kid named Andruw Jones stole the show as he belted a two-run home run in the second inning and added a three-run shot off of Brian Boehringer in the third. The Yanks would go on to lose the game 12-1, and with his glove and bat, Jones earned himself comparisons to both Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

Over the years, Jones almost lived up to his potential, but he never took baseball as seriously as he should have. In his age 28 and age 29 seasons, he hit 51 and 41 home runs respectively, and after 10 full seasons in the league, he had a .267/.345/.505 triple slash line with 342 home runs and over 1,000 RBIs. Those are the makings of a Hall of Fame-like career.

Since then, though, Jones’ production has dropped precipitously. He signed a two-year, $36.2 million contract with the Dodgers and couldn’t last in Los Angeles. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged 104 games with a slash line of just .212/.312/.412 and has managed to add just 65 home runs to his total since then. He’ll turn 34 shortly after Opening Day, and he remains a free agent.

Throughout the winter, the Yankees have been intrigued by Andruw Jones. They realize his defense has declined along with his bat, and in fact, his once-mighty UZR now ranks him as merely an average player in the field. Yet, they see one number that intrigues them. In 102 plate appearances against lefties, Jones hit eight home runs in 2010 and sported a nifty .402 wOBA. With Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner vulnerable to lefties, the Yanks want a power right-handed bat who can play the field if need be. Jones, on their radar in 2009, might once again be there man, and the team is strongly interested in him.

Should Thames return in 2011? (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

But what of the incumbent? Another 34-year-old with suspect defense held down the righty bat/fourth outfielder spot last year with mixed results. He certainly couldn’t play the field, but Marcus Thames broke out the boomstick at the right time. He hit .288/.350/.491 with 12 home runs in 237 plate appearances, and his .365 wOBA was just .005 off his career high. Against lefties, though, his numbers dipped. He hit just five home runs in 142 plate appearances and sported a .354 wOBA.

So now, as the Yanks look to fill in the blanks before Spring Training, the question becomes “who would you rather?” After running down these numbers, it might be tempting to lean toward Thames. He was productive against both lefties and righties last year and put up a career year, but his .248/.311/.491 body of work suggest that he’s not in line to do it again. They don’t call ’em career years for nothing. We also don’t need to know Thames’ -4.3 UZR to know he was a disaster in the outfield. That game against the Red Sox during which he just flat-out dropped a pop-up is good enough for me.

Perhaps then Jones with his .261/.361/.501 career line against lefties is the Yanks’ man. He can play a passable outfield for a few innings and can still flash the power. But salary demands are a concern. He’ll want way more than the $500,000 he earned in 2010, but Thames will want a raise from the $900,000 he earned. It seems that Jones will be the more expensive sure thing while Thames has the good will of 2010 going for them. With the Yanks’ money to spend, I’d err toward Jones. Would you?

Pick one for 2011
View Results
Steinbrenner statement on the passing of Christina Green
Report: Yankees "stepping up" pursuit of Duchscherer
  • Hannah Ehrlich

    Johnny Damon.

    • whozat

      Why? He’s less of a defender and a lefty bat…

      • Hannah Ehrlich

        Because honestly, I didn’t read the article, and I really like Johnny Damon. It’s my share of irrational baseball player love for the day.

        • Yanksforthemammaries

          Read the article, it’s there for a reason. Just remember Damon doesn’t know (or care) you exist, so ‘irrational baseball player love’ is dumb when trying to build a team. Especially a team this far behind the Ded Sux on paper…….

          • caspian

            Lighten up, Francis. His response was funny and a more honest assessment of talent than you get from most “journalists” these days.

    • Gerald Williams

      Now, I love Johnny and all, but… NO! He makes no sense for the Yanks this year. We need a lefty masher. Granted Thames did a great job at the plate this year, but I will have a heart attack if I have to watch that guy play the outfield again. He makes routine fly-balls a crazy adventure. I appreciated what he did last year, but I seriously doubt he can keep those numbers up. Honestly Jones doesn’t really excite me (neither does anything else about this terrible offseason), but I think he is the best fit. He gives a lot more flexibility in the outfield (lord knows you can’t put Thames in center) and has a higher ceiling. At one point I even had him on my fantasy team last year after some nasty injuries. Maybe with diet and exercise he could put up 20 dingers! That would be great.
      With that all said, I don’t care… GO GET A STARTING PITCHER & SORIANO! I don’t care about the draft pick. Soriano is lights out, spend the money so we don’t have to watch loser Joba bumble through the 8th. At the very least I’d rather see Robertson there. Why didn’t they trade Joba when he had some value? That guy doesn’t even like NY.

    • @TheDog_man

      I think his waist-line would be the deciding factor.

  • BigBlueAL

    My only question would be who do you platoon, Gardner or Granderson??

    • Benjamin Kabak

      If Granderson’s late-season surge against lefties is any indication, probably Gardner now and then. It doesn’t hurt to give his wheels a rest, and Brett’s numbers against LH starters are much worse than his splits against righties.

      • BigBlueAL

        Sounds good to me.

        • Brian in NH

          Yeah and Gardner definitely tired at a point during the season and wasn’t even attemptnig steals.

    • Ted Nelson

      Both/either… Just gives you flexibility. That’s why I voted for Jones over Thames: you have not only a guy who can pinch-hit or DH, but also a guy who can get an occasional start in the field and fill in should an injury arise. And he played all 3 OF spots last season which gives you even more flexibility.

      So, in terms of a strict platoon I’d just see how things play out, and in terms of backing up I’d say both plus Swisher and maybe Posada if Jones is hitting and in a sense Tex when he needs a day off (Jones has played some 1B, but more referring to Swisher sliding to 1B).

  • Mike Axisa

    Wow, surprised at the early poll results.

    • BigBlueAL

      Defense has to be the biggest reason. I know Jones isnt anywhere near what he used to be defensively but if he is now just average it is still 100X better than what Thames is defensively.

  • Tom Zig

    Marcus Thames, thank you for 2010, and I hope it gets you a lucrative contract, just not with the Yankees. What good is a 4th outfielder if he can’t actually, you know, play the outfield? Now if you want Thames to be the back-up DH then I’m all ears. But 4th outfielder, has to be Jones. Jones can actually play defense.

    • Mike Axisa

      Thames was awesome in 2010 and I fully appreciate what he did, but I suspect the Yankees won’t catch that lightning in a bottle twice. Go with Jones, who’s more versatile and just as productive against lefties.

  • AndrewYF

    Amazing that a guy who has ‘disappointed’ by falling off a cliff at the age of 30 is still a lock for the HOF. I mean, christ, a centerfielder with 400+ HR is a lock with or without his historically great defense.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      He ought to be a lock for the Hall of Fame, but apparently, voters are a bit prickly these days.

      • AndrewYF

        Where were these prickly voters when Jim Rice was elected?

        We should just have a computer screen with the Baseball-Reference WAR leaderboard. That’ll be my Hall of Fame. Plus Mo.

        • AndrewYF

          Also, minus Keith Hernandez. Stupid defense.

        • whozat

          Being prickly about NERDS daring to tell THEM who helped win baseball games when they KNOW that TEH PHEAR was what it was all about.

        • AndrewYF

          Also, here’s something funny: even Phil Rizzuto has a better career WAR than Jim Rice. In 2347 fewer plate appearances.

          What a travesty of a selection.

        • JGS

          You wouldn’t need to make a special exception for Mo, who has a higher bWAR than 22 HOF pitchers. Sure that list includes relievers like Sutter and Gossage, mistakes like Burleigh Grimes and Catfish Hunter, and Satchel Paige (who only threw 476 MLB innings), but it also a 300-game winner (Early Wynn), and a guy who threw nearly 4500 innings of 115 ERA+ (Eppa Rixey).

          If Mo picks up 6.1 more bWAR in the next two years (and he’s been at 2.9 or higher every year other than injury-shortened 2002 and horrendous April 2007), he will end up at 59, passing thirteen more Hall of Famers, including Whitey Ford (yea, he’ll be the franchise leader), Mickey Welch (another 300 game winner), and Sandy Koufax. None of that includes the postseason.

          Mo is good at baseball.

          • toad

            Sorry. I can’t let the ignorant comment about Satchel Paige pass. He only threw 476 MLB innings? Wonder why? Guess he just wasn’t good enough. Or maybe it was something else.

            Do you know anything about baseball history?

            • Greg C

              I could be wrong, but I didn’t take the Paige comment that way. He seemed to be listed seperate from the mistakes of Grimes and Hunter. I don’t think the point was that Paige wasn’t good or that it was his fault he didn’t pitch more in MLB. However, he did only pitch 476 innings, and perhaps it is difficult to compare him statistically to pitchers with longer MLB careers. That is what it is, regardless of circumstances.

    • bpdelia

      The problem here is that it has become clear that PERCEPTION is still the #1 issue in HOF voting. If ANdrew Jones had DIED on his 31st birthday he’s a lock for the HOF, perhaps first ballot. But he didn’t die . . . he might have eaten quite a few dead people, but he lived. ANd now the IMAGE in the minds of voters is of a guy with Mays like talent who literally ATE himself into oblivion. WHO didn’t care enough about the game or the fans to keep himself in passable shape, and who basically gave up on his career.

      Thats the FIRST image that pops into a voters mind now. And way down the list is the decade of HOF production and insane defense.

      Again, Jones dies on his 30th birtday. . . first ballot. Now, veterans commitee

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      too much black hotness

  • wow

    Go with Jones. He gives us the most flexibility of the available options. Also, with a viable fourth option, it might open up the possibility for a trade down the road for (insert pitcher of choice).

  • LawStudent

    Jones has more upside than Thames and is a better bet to do well. Money’s plentiful this year, especially if Andy retires.

  • Gonzo

    No mention of Thames’ career year with the babip? By a lot over his career average too.

    • Mike HC

      It seemed like Thames hit a screaming line drive every at bat last year. Not surprised he had a high BABIP.

      • Gonzo

        Nope. Line Drive % was lower last year than his career average.

        • Mike HC

          Really did seem like the guy was ripping the cover off the ball. Of course, I have no idea what these people consider “line drives” and “fly balls.” Some of his screaming hits that went to the warning track and deep outfield might have been considered fly balls by whoever was keeping tally of that.

          • Gonzo

            I still consider him a prime candidate for regression in any case.

            • Mike HC

              I’m with you there.

        • Ted Nelson

          Line drive % has nothing to do with how hard the balls were hit. You can hit a soft line drive too. I’m not saying anything about Marcus Thames specifically, just that you don’t really address the point.

  • Mike HC

    I voted Thames just really out of respect for how much he contributed to the team both on the field and in the clubhouse last season. I get the feeling that Andruw “never took baseball as seriously as he should have” Jones would not exactly be the best clubhouse guy to have around and could be a bad influence. What do I know though? The fact that Jones can play the outfield while Thames can’t is admittingly a pretty big factor.

    • Phishin’

      I have the same types of reservations about Jones in the club house, basically getting as fat as he did showing lack of effort. But woukd have to disagree about being any sort of influence, there are too many “professionals” in the club house today that have been here for too long that I think it might help Jones by outing him in his place alittle…just my .02

      • Ted Nelson

        Being overweight directly impacts his play on the field, so I wouldn’t classify that as a clubhouse issue. It should probably have a fairly minimal impact in the clubhouse as a $1 mill 4th OF. If he was still a $15 mill franchise CF… I can see saying that hurts chemistry or something, but he’s a back-up and if he’s too overweight to contribute he’ll be shown the door quickly.

    • Mark

      “never took baseball as seriously as he should have” should not even be included in the article, IMO. Not only is there no statistical proof of that, there is no explanation in the article about what that really means – Did other players complain about Jones in the clubhouse? Did coaches? Did his manager? Unnecessary.

      But otherwise great article and I believe a real debate that is going on in the Yankee front office as we speak (type).

      • Zack

        Showing up in LA looking like Prince Fielder when you’re suppose to play CF doesn’t give off positive vibes.

  • Chops

    Hairston isn’t an option?

    • Dirty Pena

      Whoops. What (s)he said.

    • Tom Zig

      I’m still all for the brothers Hairston. But there hasn’t been any mention of them recently.

      • whozat

        mlbtr has like…nothing on them for this offseason. The Yanks “inquired” on Jerry mid-december, but that’s about it.

  • Dirty Pena

    Have we given up on Scott Hairston?

    • RichYF

      Well, the poll only had Jones vs. Thames. I think Mike should start a 16 player bracket style tourney to determine who the Yanks use as their 4th OF.

  • Mick_The_Quick

    So we’re sure that Thames is heading for a regression, but not Jones, who frankly has sucked for a while? Jones’ great stats against lefties last year seems to be a bit of UFO based on the previous few years.

    I’m more confident Thames will hit next year than I am Jones. I understand the need for a glove, but we also want someone who can hit. Jones won’t be it. Keep searching, or go with the guy who will give us better ABs at this stage, which is Thames.

    • hogsmog

      ‘Jones won’t be it’

      Ok. I wish that I could have this conviction about things I wish to prove without at least a scrap of evidence. I always shoot for that strong, ‘I do not care about facts as much as my GUT’ attitude, but choke when it counts!

      • Ted Nelson

        While it’s not the most articulate post ever, he specifically says that Jones has not hit lefties in the seasons preceding 2010. This is a fact which you can easily verify for yourself on It is, in fact, true. Jones had a reverse split in 2009 and was awful against both lefties and righties in 2008.

        The poster’s point is that Jones is roughly as likely to regress as Thames. This seems pretty reasonable. Clearly it is you who does not care about the facts enough to take 10 seconds to check them out.

    • Jonathan

      Ya that is absolutely ridiculous. If you’re going to make comments like that you should at least have some sort of evidence or facts to back it up. I’m not sure who you think is available to be a 4th OF but gold glove players with great bats don’t get 4th OF jobs. All the candidates will be flawed. That’s the way it works.

      Jones has a career of dominating lefties including last year and you don’t think it’ll last…yet Thames wasn’t even very good against them in his career year? If Thames was able to replicate the type of season he just had, he would have done it before 34 years old. Once again, if you’re going to post ridiculous posts, at least have a tiny shred of evidence.

      • jsbrendog (returns)


      • Ted Nelson

        While it’s not the most articulate post ever, he specifically says that Jones has not hit lefties in the seasons preceding 2010. This is a fact which you can easily verify for yourself on It is, in fact, true. Jones had a reverse split in 2009 and was awful against both lefties and righties in 2008.

        The poster’s point is that Jones is roughly as likely to regress as Thames. This seems pretty reasonable. If you’re going to attack someone’s post, at least take the 10 seconds necessary to check the publicly available evidence.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    Is there a “neither” option? Thames performed out of his mind last year, Andruw Jones has looked cooked at various times throughout his career as of late. Scott Hairston? Someone who doesn’t blow ass in the field maybe?

    • mbonzo

      Andruw Jones:
      Career UZR = 124.8
      2009 UZR = 3.3
      2010 UZR = 0.7

      Scott Hairston:
      Career UZR = 14.3
      2009 UZR = 2.0
      2010 UZR = 0.2

      I’ll take Jones, thanks.
      I’d personally like to take on Lastings Milledge but if they don’t plan on signing anymore bench players with power I’d take Jones instead.

  • Chris0313

    Cecil Fielder

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Jones is my vote. I like the idea that he can play the OF for a couple of innings or spot start in all OF positions. His average defense coupled with the ability to pop them out in the stadium or around the league. Jorge goes down with an injury. Jones can fill in unless Montero is on the bench.

    I believe the NY factor may play some incentive for better overall play though Chicago is a nice town to live and work but NY is a destination for twilight careers especially for players with some ability. Thames provided some nice moments but I go with lightning in the bottle theory two years in succession.

  • Crosetti32

    Please, Thames or anyone other than Jones. The man looks like he’d rather be taking a nap than playing baseball.

    • Jonathan

      would you rather have a guy who looks like he’d rather not play, that performs, or a guy who looks like he loves to play and doesn’t perform?

  • Carlosologist

    The fact that Jones can replicate Thames’ 2010 and play (at least) average defense makes him that much better than Thames.

  • Sal

    If the Yanks are gonna bring back Thames they might as well sign Vladimir Guerrero, he hits better and plays a better below average Defense then Marcus.

  • camilo Gerardo

    Jones, because if Gardner slips, we’d have abv avg d at LF still

  • Juke Early

    Andruw Jones needs a nutritionist. As for all the new stats – knock yourselves out. But the game on the field isn’t strat-o-matic. Jones, Thames or Babe Ruth’s ghost still needs to do something in that critical AB to get the run in that wins the game. That’s right – W I N. I’m reasonably sure there are a lot of people who never played organized baseball at any level. And T Ball doesn’t count. Team w/the most runs after the home team’s last at bat, wins in real baseball.

    • pete

      ohhhhh, thanks for clearing that up. I was wondering how teams win. And how to spell the word. You’re so helpful.

  • bpdelia

    I think there is some undervaluing of JOne’s defense here. He can do more than “play a couple of innings” out there. Is he a GG’er anymore? No. But this is a guy who is still a servicable league average OF and a guy who can probably NOT embarass himself in CF in the event of something weird happening (i.e. Gardner injured, Granderson PH for etc.)

    Jones seems like a CLEAR upgrade, and a player who actually has the potential to have a very nice year. Even his bad year is still going to be very effective.

  • Doug

    Jones 1-yr deal > Thames 1-yr deal; Thames 1-yr deal > Jones 2-yr deal

    • bpdelia

      I haven’t seen any indication that Jones is getting a multi year deal. With the way he has performed and worked I think it’s a given that Jones will never get anything but year to year again. The man must be kept on a short leash.

      But the truth is he and Thames are similar hitters at this point in their careers yet Jones is still an average fielder.

      I would love this move personally. As far as the Hairston Bros. Scott appears to have regressed a bit (though hed be a fine fit) and I’m not sure I see Util INF as a need. Unless people are set on Nunez playing in AAA because they truly believe his is the futurs starter at SS seems to me he’d be a very nice option as the MIF UTIL player.

      • Doug

        agree that jones should be year-to-year, but with boras as his agent, you never know.

        all i’m saying is that if boras “insists” on 2 years, would rather have thames. would rather have a lot of people.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Greg Golson. And Cervelli for the 5th outfielder (corners only). The guy is better than Youk out there! Spend all money on pitching and you can win a World Series with a bunch of journeymen in the field.

    /SF Giants

  • FishJam

    How bout Reed Johnson?

    Had an off year but hits lefties very well and can play all 3 OF positions. Not quite the raw power of Thames/Jones but a better all-around player maybe.

    .312 – .373 – .463 career line vs LHP with .364 woba

    • pete

      nick johnson minus the talent? no thanks

  • John

    Why not Lastings Milledge? I know he’s a head case, but on the Yanks he would be the best chance for him to behave, Youngest, fast, can play all three positions – could still be an above average player.

    • Chris

      I agree completely and have been screaming this nearly all offseason. Has this actually been discussed or is it just a case of fans knowing what’s best for the team more than the big wigs do?

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    Ruben Sierra.

  • Joe DiMaggio’s Ego-Ghost

    Why would we want either one of these guys?

  • slim

    neither one excites me enough to vote.
    A. Jones looked great until about June 1st; from then on he was one of the worst hitters in the major leagues.

  • slim

    make June 1st ; May 5
    take a look
    on May 5th he was batting .270/.386/.676

    by Sept 1st his full season line was:

    he finished a little higher in all stats during the garbage time games but from May 5th – Sept. 1st his numbers were god awful!!!

    • dcone

      Jones is the better of the two options. Thames had a nice year last year, but in case of injury, I could live with Jones as an everyday player in any of the OF spots and get good returns as opposed to Thames who can barely play LF. I am a big Damon fan and would bring him back if the DH slot were open, but he serves no use on this team anymore. He messed up last year not accepting the Yanks two-year offer and will pay for it now. He’ll get a job, but it will be in February at best.

  • EnVy1

    Jones will be a better fit than Thames. A couple of trip to the psych. office, a strength conditioning coach, and a very short leash and he’ll do fine with the Yankees. Also, try to eliminate his Joker kinda smile when he’s batting. We’ll get our 28 world series this year folks.