White Sox add to depth with Andruw

White Sox add to depth with Andruw

CHICAGO -- The price definitely was right for the White Sox concerning the free-agent signing of Andruw Jones, a $500,000 deal for 2010 with up to an additional $1 million in performance bonuses, as announced by the team Wednesday.

Jones was among the deep and talented free-agent center field class for the White Sox to peruse prior to the 2008 campaign. But the White Sox were not about to bring in Jones at the two years, $36.2 million for which he eventually signed with the Dodgers. Instead, they added Nick Swisher via a trade with Oakland after their pursuit of Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand didn't work out. Two years later, Jones becomes a solid bench fit, with the upside of a former everyday All-Star caliber player.

"This is an opportunity to add a power bat to the roster while improving our outfield depth," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams of the Jones signing. "With the addition of Andruw, Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel, we feel our bench is taking shape to be a strong asset heading into the 2010 season."

Williams has mentioned previously how he learned early on the benefit of a good fit among bench players, as opposed to loading up the reserves with the absolute best players he could find. Vizquel, who turns 43 on April 24, gives the White Sox solid backup at shortstop, third base and second base, while working with the young double-play combination of shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham.

Kotsay, who hits 34 on Dec. 2, made an immediate impact after the White Sox picked him up for Brian Anderson in a trade with the Red Sox on July 28, 2009. The left-handed-hitting first baseman/outfielder Kotsay batted .292 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 113 at-bats with the White Sox, and was mentioned by manager Ozzie Guillen as a key player to have back for '10.

And the 32-year-old Jones gives the White Sox another possibility as part of the rotating designated-hitter spot spoken of by Guillen, who became friendly with Jones during their days together in Atlanta. The 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and five-time All-Star, who is represented by Scott Boras, batted .214 (60-281) with 17 home runs and 43 RBIs in 82 games with Texas in '09 while making 53 starts as the designated hitter, 12 in left field, five in right field and four at first base. His defensive claim to fame with the Braves came as a center fielder, but Jones is looked at more as a corner outfielder defensively.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder averaged one home run every 16.5 at-bats, which would have ranked eighth in the American League with the required plate appearances, and he led Texas with an average of one walk every 7.36 plate appearances. Jones hit three home runs on July 8 in Anaheim, but he did not go deep again after a two-homer game on July 29 at home against Detroit.

During the months of September and October, Jones had only five hits in 28 combined at-bats. Even with this pickup of the career .257 hitter with 388 home runs, 1,174 RBIs and 1,109 runs scored, leaving the 40-man roster at 39, the White Sox still have some flexibility.

Jayson Nix, who is out of options, certainly has not been knocked out of the Major League picture, especially with his ability to play the outfield and three infield positions -- not to mention adding his own burst of power off the bench. He could also be part of the rotating designated-hitter spot.

While the White Sox figure to make one more major position player addition, probably to fill the leadoff spot through an outfielder, the return of Scott Podsednik still ranges from remote to inconclusive. Podsednik and his camp continue to look for a multi-year deal, an area where the White Sox are not willing to go.

"It is still early in the process and we have had several teams express interest in Scott," said Ryan Gleichowski, Podsednik's agent, in an e-mail. "Our goal is to keep the lines of communication open with the White Sox. We will continue to see how things develop."

There also figures to be at least one White Sox bullpen upgrade, although the team has five veterans currently set and holding down relief spots. There also is a group of four or five young hurlers who the South Siders can turn to in support of one of the American League's top starting rotations.

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