Baseball Friday: Andruw Jones, A Braves Rejuvination and Fantasy Sleepers

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Baseball Friday: Andruw Jones, A Braves Rejuvination and Fantasy Sleepers

This is the first of a weekly baseball column I'd like to start. I can't think of a creative name for it, so I'll accept any ideas.

Baseball is full of winners and losers. In the offseason, teams find different ways to win and lose.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry is losing by making moves that don't make sense at the time while Derek Lowe comes out a winner with a deal worth $60 million in a slow offseason for free agents.

But this week's biggest winner may come as a surprise.

The biggest winner: Andruw Jones

Jones was recently released by the Dodgers, which is secretly every expensive major leaguer's dream.

Jones will get the remaining money from his contract without even doing anything.

The Dodgers reworked Jones' contract so that all but $5 million was deferred for future years. Unfortunately, they couldn't find a taker on the trade market.

I'm not sure how cutting him benefits the Dodgers. Jones may be a shadow of his former self (understatement of the century), but he's generally an upgrade over Juan Pierre when healthy.

Andruw Jones, sure you're a disgrace to baseball and you ate yourself out of a Hall of Fame career, but you're a winner this week. Don't expect this award ever again.

The biggest loser: 5.2 percent of Hall of Fame voters

No, this is not "The Biggest Loser" as in the reality show. Although that might be the category Andruw Jones would rather fall into.

5.2 percent of the BBWAA showed their true colors during HOF voting, proving that they're not aware that there is no way to argue that Rickey Henderson is not a HOFer.

This is most likely because of the idiots who left Babe Ruth off the ballot when he was elected. But voters need to learn to set their own standards rather than basing them off some idiot who wrote 70 years ago.

Sign of the apocolypse: Frank Wren saving the Braves from becoming a joke?

Wren has built a reputation as a very unaggressive GM, but he has quietly set up the Braves starting rotation for next year.

The Braves signed Derek Lowe for four years at $60 million. While they may be overpaying, it makes the Braves a more complete team in giving them a reliable groundball pitcher.

Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami has also signed with Atlanta. Kawakami won the Sawamura award in 2006, the Central League's Cy Young Award equivalent. Although he's 33, Kawakami is a big game pitcher, leading the Dragons rotation to a championship.

Last is Javier Vazquez, who was acquired in a trade for prospects Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge, neither of which had a future with the Braves as they're set at catcher and shortstop (and Flowers will probably be a first baseman anyway).

Vazquez and Lowe are known for durability. Vazquez has started at least 30 games since 2000 and Lowe has never missed a start. This will help the Braves whose season died last year with injuries to John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson.

If you combine the big three with Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson in the second half of the season, the Braves may have enough pitching to contend for a playoff spot with a solid core of young hitters.

Fantasy Sleepers of the Week: Shin-Soo Choo and Elijah Dukes

Quick Question, what team is Choo on? Even if you had to look that up, it just further proves my point that he's underrated going into 2009

Choo is ranked the 79th best outfielder on MLB.com. He will be experience his first full season as an everyday player in the Indians outfield next season.

Choo played 94 games last season (a career high) The 25-year-old amassed an OPS+ of 146, 14 home runs, and a .309 BA. What also sets up Choo for success is the fact that he walks one out of eight at bats.

But if you think Choo's walk numbers are impressive, Dukes walked one out of six times last season.

Dukes is 24 and he hit 13 home runs and stole 13 bases 81 games in 2008. He has a good chance at becoming a 20-20 player with potential for even more power.

The Lightning Round

Gregg Zaun signed a one year deal with the Orioles. Zaun developed a good relationship with the Blue Jays pitching staff, which could help the Orioles, who were 29th in ERA last year. But don't expect to see him much when Matt Wieters is called up.

Kevin Youkilis was locked up for $40 million through four years. This move is more risky than most longterm deals since Youkilis will be 30 and he's struggled with durability in the past. But $10 million per year is a bargain for his offensive output.

Bartolo Colon has signed a one year deal with the White Sox. Colon's a fastball pitcher and his velocity his 95 at some points last season and his 3.92 ERA shows he can still be productive when healthy.

David Eckstein signed a one year deal with the Padres. Not sure what to make of this one, but I just wanted to state this fun fact: Eckstein was named a Jewish All-American in college in 1996 despite the fact that he's Catholic.

Guillermo Mota signed with the Dodgers for one year. Mota is a flyball pitcher, but perhaps a spacious outfield will aid the hard throwing reliever. Actually, let's be real. He just sucks.

The Eckstein fun fact may have let down some of my Jewish readers, but hopefully this makes up for it. Gabe Kapler signed with the Rays. Kapler creates depth along with recent acquisitions Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce in an outfield that was lacking beyond Carl Crawford and BJ Upton.

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