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Chicago White Sox ink Andruw Jones for $500,000.

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As soon as the Chicago White Sox decided to buy out the $950,000 remaining on slugger Jermaine Dye’s contract, the front office began scrambling to replace his offensive production.

They brought in Mark Teahen, a versatile infielder/outfielder with slight pop, from the Kansas City Royals. They re-signed pinch hitter extraordinaire and corner outfielder Mark Kotsay to a one-year deal.

Not surprisingly, those signings did little to inspire confidence in Chicago.

But now they’ve brought in 10-time Gold Glover and five-time All Star, 32-year-old Andruw Jones.

For $500,000.

My how the mighty have fallen.

Jones is a shadow of the player that routinely garnered Most Valuable Player votes as little as three years ago. In limited play with the Texas Rangers in 2009, he hit .214 with 17 homeruns in 281 at-bats. The campaign was actually an improvement over his horrible 2008, when he hit a measly .182 with just three homeruns as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In recent years, Jones has reverted to one of his old and worn tendencies: swinging at and missing breaking balls. There’s a good article about his rapid decline here.

Jones is just the most recent piece of the White Sox’s expanding bench. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll amount to anything more than a platoon corner outfielder, but Jones is still valuable to Chicago.

It’s entirely possible that he hasn’t forgotten everything that once made him one of the game’s most feared hitters.

Jones averaged a homerun every 16.5 at-bats in 2009. Had he played a full season and amassed more plate appearances, that mark would have been good for eighth in the American League. He also led Texas batters in walk rate in 2009, earning a free pass every 7.4 at-bats.

Jones’ contract with the White Sox includes $1 million in performance based incentives, an advantage he’ll want to make the most of if he hopes to even earn a contract in 2011.

While the signing isn’t likely to quell Chicago fans’ uneasy thoughts about the team’s outfield in 2010, it is a step towards replacing Dye’s offensive production. Jones will most likely split time at the corner outfield positions and as the team’s designated hitter.

For $500,000, the Chicago White Sox could have certainly done worse.

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