From the Associated Press, via NBCSports.com, comes word that free agent outfielder Andruw Jones has finalized a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Rakuten Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League. The deal was agreed to over a week ago but is just now being officially announced by the Japanese team.
Jones batted .197/.294/.408 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI in 94 games this past season for the Yankees. He probably could have found at least one major league team willing to offer him a one-year pact, but he has better earning power over in Japan at this point.
It’s not clear whether the 35-year-old plans to return to Major League Baseball after his stint overseas.
Jones, the winner of 10 straight Gold Gloves from 1998-2007 and a five-time National League All-Star, owns a .254/.337/.486 career batting line.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.