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Dodgers add Jones to middle of it all

Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers agreed to terms with free-agent center fielder Andruw Jones on a two-year guaranteed contract worth $36.2 million on Wednesday evening, according to multiple baseball sources. The deal is pending a physical.

By acquiring Jones on the night before the winter meetings end, the Dodgers filled two of their off-season needs -- a middle-of-the-order bat and a defensive upgrade in center field.

Jones, 30, hit 26 home runs and drove in 94 runs last season for the Atlanta Braves. He hit at least 25 home runs and won a Gold Glove for the 10th consecutive season.

The Dodgers are expected to move weak-armed Juan Pierre to left field, leaving Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier for right. The surplus of outfielders could make either Kemp or Ethier expendable and the Dodgers are believed to have been asked for Kemp in trade discussions for several available pitchers, including left-hander Erik Bedard of the Baltimore Orioles.

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An official for the Oakland Athletics said earlier in the day that the Dodgers weren’t considered a viable trade partner for right-handers Dan Haren or Joe Blanton, but the potential availability of Kemp could change that.

Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday the team needs to acquire a starting pitcher this winter.

At the start of the off-season, Jones’ agent, Scott Boras, signaled he expected Jones could get a five-year contract worth $100 million.

But no team appeared to come close to such an offer, amid concerns over a .222 batting average that was 41 points below his career average and questions about his long-term conditioning. The two-year deal provides Jones the chance to re-establish his value and re-enter the free-agent market at age 32. Jones is believed to like the idea of hitting behind fleet-footed Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre, which could allow him to drive in more runs.

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The Dodgers get the benefit of financial flexibility via a short-term commitment.

Boras said in an e-mail message earlier Wednesday that he and his client would entertain an offer for a shorter contract than they were initially seeking, so long as it came from “a competitive team.”

Boras said he considered every team in the National League West fit that criteria.

The San Francisco Giants were interested in Jones, but not at an $18-million price tag. The Kansas City Royals also had interest. The Chicago White Sox were looking for a center fielder, but Jones wasn’t on their radar.

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Colletti and Boras had to this point disagreed on the length of a potential deal, with the Dodgers looking for a contract for two or three years and Boras asking for five.

Jones’ average annual salary of $18.1 million is the highest ever awarded by the Dodgers and is fifth-highest in major league history. Only Roger Clemens ($28-million average), Alex Rodriguez ($25.2 million), Manny Ramirez ($20 million) and Derek Jeter ($18.9 million) have been paid more per season.

Jones will receive a $12-million signing bonus. He will earn $9 million in the upcoming season and $15 million in 2009.

Jones is in his native Curacao and is expected to undergo a physical in the next week or so.

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Chan Ho Park will be a non-roster invitee to the Dodgers’ spring training camp. Park’s agent, Jeff Borris, said the split-contract deal will be announced today after the Rule 5 draft. . . . Dodgers Manager Joe Torre underwent knee-replacement surgery Wednesday. . . . Colletti said he had no intention of handing a large contract to a middle reliever. Reliever Jonathan Meloan could get a shot at a place in the starting rotation in spring training.

Staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

New in blue

A quick look at Andruw Jones:

* Will turn 31 on April 23.

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* Averages 34 homers every

162 games.

* Has won 10 consecutive Gold Glove

awards in center field.

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* Finished second in MVP voting in 2005, when he hit 51 homers.

* Has played at least 153 games

in all 11 of his full seasons.

* A career .263 hitter, coming off

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a career-low .222 season.

* Has 368 career homers and a

.497 career slugging percentage.

Los Angeles Times

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