Age opening day 2012: 31
Arbitration year: Second (was Super 2 last year)
Acquired: Minor league free agent, December 2008
Service time: 3 years, 158 days
2012 salary: $2.25 million (lost arbitration, $2.5 million -- $2.25 million)
Stats: .274/.317/.516 in 515 plate appearances, .832 OPS, 27 home runs, 28 doubles, 103/33 K/BB ratio
Jones had his best season since 2009, when he slugged .567 and hit 21 home runs in 358 plate appearances. He was a reliable cleanup hitter and gave the Pirates power they lacked in 2011.
He really needs to be part of a platoon: He had a .532 OPS in 81 plate appearances against left-handed pitching this season, including a .297 on-base percentage.
Jones continued to struggle running the bases and at times on defense this season. That’s troublesome, but his power makes up for it. Other than a difficult May, Jones hit consistently well this season.
Comp: Josh Willingham, 2010. Willingham hit .260/.367/.496 for an .863 OPS and 24 home runs in 502 plate appearances in 2009, quite close to Jones’ stats this season. Willingham had a $2.95 million base salary in 2009 in his first year of arbitration eligibility and received a $4.6 million salary in 2010. It’s safe to say that Jones’ salary will increase to the $5 million range.
Analysis: The Pirates will tender Jones a contract, as he will probably fill that swingman role between first base and right field. The Pirates don’t have much else at first base beside Gaby Sanchez and his .620 OPS last season (though he had a .729 OPS against lefties) and until the corner outfield mess cleans itself up (Jose Tabata and Travis Snider are in the mix with Jones in right field) the Pirates need Jones.
There’s a non-zero chance the Pirates balk at the price tag, the fact that he’s 31 or what they’ll have to pay him in 2014 and ’15, and trade him while his value is highest – the Yankees, you’ll remember, were interested – but I don’t think that happens unless the Pirates can get a solid starter or catcher in return.
-- Video courtesy of MLB.com
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