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Dodgers cut ties with Jones

Dodgers cut ties with Jones

LOS ANGELES -- Barely one year after making Andruw Jones the highest-paid player in franchise history, the Dodgers released him.

Concluding one of the most stunning yet inexplicable collapses in Major League history, Jones was given his release Thursday in exchange for deferring over the next six years about $16 million of the remaining $21.1 million the Dodgers owe on his two-year, $36.2 million free-agent contract.

Jones becomes a free agent. The Dodgers had two weeks to drum up a trade and spoke to at least two clubs this week, but nothing materialized.

In a statement issued by the club, general manager Ned Colletti said efforts to find a trade partner were unsuccessful.

"Obviously this is a disappointing day for both us and Andruw, as we all had high hopes for him when he signed last year given his track record and everything that we had seen from him in the past and heard about him," said Colletti. "I know that Andruw is also very disappointed in the way things turned out and the best thing to do at this point is to turn the page and we wish him well."

Now if Jones finds another job, the signing club will be responsible for only the Major League minimum salary offset ($400,000), with the Dodgers paying the rest. Speculation has centered on Jones returning to his original team, the Braves. Jones has been working out recently with former Braves teammates at Turner Field.

But MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that the Braves' interest is tepid and, at best, Jones would have to sign a Minor League contract and win a job in Spring Training.

Such a scenario was unthinkable even a year ago, when the Dodgers believed Jones would be a short-term solution to their lack of production in the middle of the batting order, even though his power numbers with the Braves had dropped from 41 homers and 129 RBIs in 2006 to 26 and 94 in 2007.

The Dodgers would have been pleased with a repeat of the 26/94 production, but nobody envisioned where Jones would wind up in 2008 -- a .158 average, three homers, 14 RBIs and one knee surgery.

He was a strikeout machine throughout the season and a disaster from Day One, showing up at training camp noticeably overweight, slow of foot and bat speed. And he compounded his poor play with poorly chosen words about not caring what fans thought about his performance.

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Frustrated and demoralized, Jones left the club in mid-September after being placed on the disabled list for the third time with tendinitis in his right knee, which also underwent arthroscopic surgery in June. Jones had never been on the disabled list his previous 10 seasons.

Jones, 32 in April, is a 10-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star, but the Dodgers saw none of that. He vowed before leaving the club to report to 2009 Spring Training in better shape, but privately he told teammates he did not want to return to the Dodgers.

Scott Boras, Jones' agent, approached the Dodgers with the plan to get Jones a fresh start. Deferring the salary from the back-loaded contract provides the Dodgers with some payroll flexibility that could facilitate the re-signing of another Boras client, Manny Ramirez.

Meanwhile, with Jones out of the picture and Ramirez still a free agent, the Dodgers' tentative starting outfield consists of Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre. Other outfielders on the Major League roster are Jason Repko, Delwyn Young, Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffman.

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

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