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Rangers ink Andruw to Minors deal

Rangers ink Andruw to Minors deal

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ARLINGTON -- Center fielder Andruw Jones, a five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, is joining the Rangers outfield.

Jones, who was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this winter, has agreed to a Minor League contract worth $500,000. Jones can also make up to $1 million in bonuses if he reaches 620 plate appearances.

"He's certainly been a superstar for quite a few years," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "These past few years have been down for him, but I like the fact that he brings 10 Gold Gloves, he's a winner and he fits well into our clubhouse. He has something to prove. We've got him in camp now, we'll see where he goes from here."

Jones spent 12 years with the Braves, where he developed a reputation for being one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. But he also became an outstanding offensive player as well. Between 1998-2007, Jones hit .266 with an average of 97 runs scored, 34 home runs and 103 RBIs. His best season was 2005, when he hit .263 with 51 home runs and 128 RBIs.

But he became a free agent after the 2007 season, when his averaged dropped to .222 with 26 home runs and 94 RBIs. The Dodgers signed him to a two-year deal worth $36.2 million in 2008 and it proved to be a mistake. Jones hit .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 75 games and 209 at-bats. He struck out 76 times.

Jones went on the disabled list with torn cartilage in his right knee -- which required surgery -- and had patella tendonitis in his left knee at the end of the season. There were concerns that he was overweight. The Dodgers released him in January after Jones agreed to defer about $16 million of the remaining $21.1 million he is owed.

Jones pushes his way into an already crowded outfield situation that originally included David Murphy in left, Josh Hamilton in center, Nelson Cruz in right and Marlon Byrd able to play all three positions. The Rangers also still have Frank Catalanotto on the roster.

Jones could allow Hamilton to move to right field, pushing Cruz out of the picture. But right now Washington's plan is for Hamilton to play center even though there is strong sentiment within the organization to move him to right field.

Hamilton is the only player who is guaranteed an everyday spot after hitting .304 with 32 home runs and 130 RBIs in 2008. Murphy was playing every day last year until he injured his knee in August, finishing with a .275 batting average, 15 home runs and 74 RBIs in 108 games and 415 at-bats.

Byrd started off slow and had his own knee troubles but came on strong at the end, hitting .298 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs in 122 games and 403 at-bats. His value is he can play all three outfield spots, but his role with the club is even more uncertain with the addition of Jones.

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Cruz, who has been unable to earn a regular spot in the Rangers outfield over the past three seasons, spent most of last year at Triple-A, where he was the Pacific Coast League Player of the Year. He came up late in the season after Murphy went down and hit .330 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs.

Brandon Boggs also spent most of the season with the Rangers, hitting .226 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs.

"This is competition," Washington said. "Nelson has as good of opportunity as anybody. Nelson needs to prove that he can do what he showed last year, that he's improved and he's figured things out. We all know what Nelson can do.

"Andruw is another guy who brings us flexibility, experience and depth. But he has to perform."

Jones is the fifth non-roster player signed by the Rangers who has been an All-Star in his career. The others are shortstop Omar Vizquel and pitchers Eddie Guardado, Derrick Turnbow and Brendan Donnelly.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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