OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one…

“So the Yankees signed Mark Prior and Andruw Jones? That would be amazing…if it was 2004!”

Ugh. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a variation of that joke posted on Twitter this week, I would probably have, easily, $24.

I mean, I get it. The fact that the Yankees signed both men during this offseason left the door wide open for this sort of commentary, but come on, people. With the AFC title game coming up, can’t we cook up some good Ben Roethlisberger-is-a-female-terrorist jokes instead?

I’m not against bad jokes. I love bad jokes. This blog may best be explained as one bad joke. But it’s the repetition of this particular bad joke that has me close to a Randy Quaid-level public meltdown.

Prior, of course, was signed back in December to a minor league contract. The Yankees aren’t exactly out on a limb here. It’s unlikely the right-hander will ever regain the electric stuff that made him a sensation at Wrigley Field, but at just 30, he’s young enough where you can justify giving him a shot to resurrect his career.

God knows the Yankees need all the options they can get, the way the bottom of their rotation is shaping up. Did you know they have a dude named Sergio in line for 32 starts? It’s a known fact that dudes named Sergio are good at only two things: 1) Chasing down tail and 2) Playing extended saxophone solos. Notice quality starts weren’t included there.

Jones, meanwhile, is another low-risk/decent-reward acquisition. What needs to be understood here is that Brian Cashman—I assume Cashman made this move, but who knows at this point—doesn’t expect Jones to hit 51 homers and play Gold Glove center field in the Bronx. Andruw Jones doesn’t have to be Andruw Jones anymorehe just needs to be a defensively superior version of Marcus Thames.

After you recalibrate the expectations, the move makes a lot more sense.

Now, it’s entirely possible Jones shows up in Tampa with the build of Rex Ryan. You cannot discount Andruw Jones’ hunger for life, and when I say “hunger for life,” I really just mean hunger. Dodgers fans can attest to this…the man had to be airlifted out of Joe Torre’s clubhouse three years ago.

But if Jones decides to show discipline and do the twilight of his career right, he can serve an important role in New York while also giving himself a shot to get back on the Hall of Fame radar.

It’s easy to forget now, but Jones was a historically good player before the bottom mysteriously dropped out in 2008. As Jon Heyman pointed out on Twitter, Jones is one of only four players to win 10 Gold Gloves and hit 400 homers, joining Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt. That’s a fraternity of two jerks and a guy who bawled like a little girl during his retirement press conference, but it’s an impressive fraternity nonetheless.

At-bats may seem hard to come by for Jones now, but a fourth outfielder always ends up getting his fair share of PT. Look at Thames, a roster afterthought last spring who ended up appearing in 82 games for the Yankees in 2010.

In closing, Prior and Jones won’t decide the Yankees’ fate the way a Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia or A.J. Burnett probably will. But they’re veterans with a track record. If they can stay uprightfor Prior that means out of the trainer’s room and for Jones out of the fridgethey can be key contributors at a low cost.

And that’s why Brian Cashman made these moves. Assuming, of course, Mr. Cashman is still on the grid. Blink twice if you’re in danger, Brian.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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