Pencil in Andrew Jones in Center Field

The Dodgers opened their money box and former Braves outfielder Andruw Jones traded Atlanta red for Dodger Blue, making him the highest-paid Dodger in the history of the club. Pending the obligatory physical, Jones will receive a $12 million signing bonus and a $9 million contract this year and $15 million in 2009.

Jones' average annual salary of $18.1 million is not only the highest ever awarded by the Dodgers, it is fifth-highest in major league history. Only Roger Clemens ($28-million average), Alex Rodriguez ($25.2 million), Manny Ramirez ($20 million) and Derek Jeter ($18.9 million) have been paid more per season.

Obviously, it would be better to eat part of Juan Pierre's contract to make him tradable to make room for a Jones, Kemp, Ethier outfield, but there may be only so much cash in Dodger Stadium's basement.

However, a source with the Dodgers said that if the season began today, Pierre would compete with Andre Ethier for playing time in left field. Kemp and Ethier would be penciled into right field.

Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner who was once one of the game's most feared hitters, joins the Dodgers after more than 11 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, for whom he was a five-time All-Star.

Jones, 30, whose throwing arm is far superior to that of Juan Pierre, will become the Dodgers regular center fielder, forcing the hugely overpriced Pierre to move to left.

The surplus of outfielders could make either Kemp or Ethier expendable and the Dodgers are believed to have been asked for Kemp in trade discussions for several available pitchers, including left-hander Erik Bedard of the Baltimore Orioles.

An official for the Oakland Athletics said earlier in the day that the Dodgers weren't considered a viable trade partner for right-handers Dan Haren or Joe Blanton, but the potential availability of Kemp could change that.

Some sources think could even put them in the running for Minnesota lefty Johan Santana, whom the Twins are looking to unload and who is easily the top pitcher available on either the trade or free-agent markets.

Jones is coming off a a rare off-season offensively in which he batted .222, his career low, and hit just 26 home runs, matching his lowest total since he hit 18 in 1997, his first full year in the big leagues. The extent of his talent makes his 94 runs batted in equate to a bad season. He has driven in as many as 129 runs just two seasons ago.

The Dodgers scouted Jones extensively and had new batting coach Don Mattingly watch video of the power hitter before making him an offer. Mattingly and others in the organization believe Jones' problems last season are correctable.

Jones is a close friend of Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, the two having been longtime teammates with the Braves. Furcal placed more than one recruiting phone call to Jones and was rewarded when his friend will join his club for the 2008 season.

Perhaps a bigger surprise than the signing is the fact Jones is represented by agent Scott Boras. Many felt the Dodgers might never sign a Boras client.

It was believed Boras was seeking a contract for his client in the neighborhood of the five-year, $90 million deal the Angels gave free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter last week, but it became increasingly clear that there wasn't much of a market for Jones, especially at the price Boras had set for him.

As a result, he fell into the Dodgers' price range. The deal is a win-win for both sides: the Dodgers aren't locking themselves into a long-term commitment, and Jones has a chance to regain his form before possibly testing the market again after the 2009 season.

Some feel a secretly hyper-extended elbow knocked Jones' statistics down, but with free agency coming up, he chose to play without saying anything.

Jones arrives in Dodger Stadium with a .263 career batting average with 368 home runs, 1,117 RBIs, a .342 on-base percentage and a .497 slugging percentage in 12 big league seasons with the Braves.

He was second in National League MVP voting in 2005 after leading the Majors with 51 homers and leading the NL with 128 RBIs. Over the past 10 seasons, in addition to earning a Gold Glove each year, Jones has averaged 35 home runs and 103 RBIs, and he has topped the 25-homer mark in each of those campaigns.

In his 12 Major League seasons, Jones has appeared in the postseason 10 times, hitting .273 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 17 playoff series.

Since his first full season in the Majors, in 1997, Jones has appeared in more games than any other big league player (1,730), and he has never spent time on the disabled list.

His 363 homers during that period are the eighth-most in baseball, behind Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Delgado and Vladimir Guerrero. He also ranks eighth among all Major Leaguers with 1,104 RBIs during that span.

His work on defense is as spectacular as his offensive stats, recording 101 assists since 1997, the most of any big league center fielder, and his 4,486 putouts since reaching the big leagues are tops among all Major League outfielders by more than 500 (Johnny Damon ranks second, with 3,980).

Jones reached the Major Leagues as a 19-year-old in 1996, and was the youngest player in baseball that season when he became the first NL player and the second in Major League history to homer in his first two World Series at-bats.

He was the youngest player to ever homer in the World Series (19 years, five months, 27 days) and remained the youngest player in baseball the following year in 1997, when as a 20-year-old, he finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Dodger Blue Notes--Chan Ho Park will be a non-roster invitee to the Dodgers' spring training camp after all. Park's agent, Jeff Borris, said the split-contract deal will be announced today after the Rule 5 draft. ... Dodgers Manager Joe Torre underwent knee-replacement surgery Wednesday. ... Colletti said he had no intention of handing a large contract to a middle reliever. Reliever Jonathan Meloan could get a shot at a place in the starting rotation in spring training.

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