What a bizarre path Andruw Jones‘s career has taken. The latest — and perhaps final — twist came with today’s announcement that the 35-year-old had agreed to a one-year contract with the Rakuten Eagles of Japan worth somewhere around $3.5 million. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the once great center fielder’s career, it’s certainly a possibility. Jones would not have gotten that kind of money in the majors in 2013, not after hitting .197/.294/.408 in 269 plate appearances with the Yankees a season ago.
If this is in fact the end of Jones’s major league career, his final numbers are nothing to be ashamed of even if they are a little disappointing. He heads to Japan with 434 homers, an .823 OPS, 10 gold gloves (won consecutively from 1998-2007), five all-star appearances, and 72.1 WAR per FanGraphs, thanks in no small part to the fact that he was once the most gifted defensive player in the game at a very key position.
The troubling part is that Jones had accomplished most of that before his 30th birthday. Through the 2006 season, he was a .267/.350/.505 hitter with 350 homers and all but one of his gold gloves, which he would go on to win the very next year. He was never the same from that point, as he hit posted a .724 OPS in his walk season and lost the opportunity to cash in on what was certain to be a huge payday.
For the past several years, Jones has been limited to that of role player status, one who managed to hang around as a veteran bat who could still hit lefties and play corner outfield if used sparingly, but it was clear he was a fraction of his former self. Barring a resurgence after his time in Japan, Jones may be hard pressed to find work in the majors from this point, but he may still receive ample consideration for a place in the Hall of Fame in the near future.