Braves' Jones Wins Record $8.2M

Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Atlanta outfielder Andruw Jones won a record $8.2 million Tuesday in salary arbitration when a panel selected his request instead of the Braves' $6.4 million offer.

Jones' salary eclipses the previous arbitration high of $7.25 million set last year by New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera — who had requested $9.25 million but lost his hearing.

Jones, who made $3.7 million last season, had his best year in 2000, hitting .303 with 36 homers, 104 RBIs and 21 steals. The center fielder also won his third straight Gold Glove.

Arbitrators Howard Block, Roger Kaplan and Elisabeth Neumeier made the decision a day after hearing the case in Phoenix.

Jones' agent, Scott Boras, stopped a seven-case losing streak.

``We would have settled at the midpoint in this case but they chose not to accept it,'' Boras said.

During the hearing, Boras compared his client to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who agreed this month to a $189 million, 10-year deal.

``We had videos of Andruw's throwing, his speed, his power, his ability to hit for average, showing he's a five-tool player,'' Boras said.

Jones, who turns 24 in April, is eligible for free agency after the 2002 season. Boras said the Braves have talked about the possibility of a multiyear contract but that talks have not gotten very detailed. He compared Jones with another of his clients, shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who in December agreed to a $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas.

``It's always difficult when you have young players like Andruw and Alex,'' Boras said. ``You're going to have to have a contract to allow adjustments within the contract. So while it's open for us, it's going to take special considerations on the part of the club and it's usually something they don't want to do until a player's a free agent.''

Players and owners have split the 12 cases decided so far.

``We felt like we had a strong case,'' Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. ``I'm surprised a little bit, but not entirely. That's the nature of this process.''

He said the Braves are ready to discuss a long-term contract with Jones and Boras.

``Hopefully, they are willing to do that,'' Schuerholz said. ``We've been of that mindset for more than a year.''

On Monday, Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood agreed to a $1.94 million, one-year contract. He returned from reconstructive elbow surgery to go 8-7 with a 4.03 ERA last season.

Wood, the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year, made $690,000 in each of the last two seasons after his impressive start. In 1998, he was 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA and 233 strikeouts in 166 2-3 innings. He tied Roger Clemens' major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game by fanning 20 during a one-hitter against Houston on May 6, 1998.

Like Jones, Baltimore right-hander Jose Mercedes went to a hearing Monday, asking to be awarded $3.8 million instead of the team's $2.75 million offer.

Mercedes made $800,000 last year, going 14-7 with a 4.02 ERA in 20 starts and 16 relief appearances. His case will be decided by arbitrators Reginald Alleyne, Howard Block and Kenneth Perea.

Just two players remain in arbitration, and they're both pitchers: Boston's Rich Garces and Cincinnati's Osvaldo Fernandez. Their hearings were scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday.

Minnesota pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, who had been scheduled for a hearing Tuesday, agreed to a two-year contract. Oakland pitcher Jim Mecir, whose case was scheduled for Wednesday, agreed to a three-year deal.