2012 Dodgers Player Profile: Jerry Hairston, Jr., The Six Million Dollar Man

Two years ago the Dodgers signed a good fielding, right-hand hitting utility infielder with a career 83 OPS+ to a guaranteed two-year contract for his age 36 and 37 seasons, for what many observers, including this one, considered a bit too much money and a year more than necessary. But Jamey Carroll silenced his critics by being a league average hitter while accruing far more playing time for the Dodgers than most imagined.

Carroll has moved on to Minnesota, so enter Jerry Hairston, Jr., who begins his Dodgers career with similar baseball skill credentials (86 OPS+, not quite as good an infielder, but a better outfielder, right-handed), with an equal-length, but richer contract (two years, $6M), and while also viewing his age-35 season in the rear-view mirror.

2012 Dodgers Player Profiles
This continues our series of 2012 player profiles, where we will analyze one player per day, between now and the end of spring training. This is also the spot for our community projections, so be sure to give us your predictions for each player for this season in the comments section.

Carrying a lot of gloves in one's baseball bag, and being able to wield them decently can be a profitable exercise, as Hairston has parlayed those skills - he has appeared at every position except pitcher and catcher, and at least 436 innings at all of those spots except first base - into a 14-year career encompassing nearly 4500 plate appearances, and about $15 million in career major-league earnings.

As an offensive player, Hairston's career breaks up into three segments:

Years 1998-2005 2006-2007 2008-2011
Ages 22-29 30-31 32-35
OPS+ 87 38 96

Perhaps wisdom of age allowed him to figure something out about his swing and turn him into a league-average hitter, but one might think that betting on that continuing at age 36, and for two seasons, may not be the wisest course of action.

Trivia:

Hairston hails from a multi-generational baseball family. His brother Scott Hairston will open his ninth MLB season this spring in his second year with the New York Mets. They are the sons of Jerry Hairston, longtime White Sox pinch-hitter / outfielder, and nephews of John Hairston, a cup of coffee Chicago Cub of the ill-fated 1969 season. Going back another generation, the father of the elder Jerry Hairston, Sam Hairston, finished his major league career with a whopping .400 / .571 / .600 batting line!

Because Jerry debuted before his brother Scott, he became the first third-generation African-American major-league baseball player.

The Dodgers are Hairston's eighth team. The journeyman has called every division of the major home except for the AL Central.

Ring in a box: he's got one. Hairston was a deadline day acquisition of the 2009 New York Yankees, and has appeared in more playoff series than Matt Kemp despite 2009 being his first post-season appearance, having returned to playoff action last season with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Contract Status:

(Sponsored by Ripley's Believe It Or Not) For his age 36 and 37 seasons, Hairston will earn $6 million guaranteed, or about $1.9 million more than any two-year span in his career. $2.25 million of that backloaded deal is due in 2012.

Previous Dodgers Player Profiles:

2011: Jamey Carroll, Gritty Grinding Gamer

2010: Jamey Carroll, the Multi-Year Man

Stats:

Year Age PA HR
Runs RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA
2009
33 433 10 62 39 .251 .315 .394 .312
2010
34 476 10 53 50 .244 .299 .353 .287
2011
35 376 5 43 31 .270 .344 .383 .323
2012 Projections - Age 36 Season



Year
PA HR
Runs RBI BA OBP SLG
Bill James
311 5 38 28 .254 .323 .369
Pecota
548 8 58 51 .248 .304 .352
ZiPS
377 6 48 37 .259 .319 .373
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

2012 Outlook:

Hairston would appear to be cast in the bench/utility player role for the Dodgers. If he accrues a large number of at-bats in 2012, that would probably indicate that things went south for one of more of Juan Uribe, Mark Ellis, or Dee Gordon. (It is unclear to me if the Dodgers would be willing to go with Hairston as an everyday SS, but the other choices would seem to be Uribe or Justin Sellers, so take your pick.)

If Pecota's playing time projection for Hairston is right, especially with a TSL like that, the soft flesh of my wrists will look mighty tempting to my kitchen knives. Of course they list his "comparables" as "Art Howe, Mike Lowell, (four-time batting champion) Bill Madlock", so take that for what it is worth.

Other than that, the projections generally are in line with my expectations, so I will guess that Hairston bats .251 / .329 / .368 while scrapping up 288 plate appearances.

What is your guess for Hairston in 2012? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, and anything else you wish to guess.

Thanks to baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com for the statistics.

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