27 July 2018

It is Hard to See Adam Jones in Baltimore in 2019

Sometimes, letting go is a challenge.  To see Adam Jones leave Baltimore and be welcomed into another franchise may seem impossible to comprehend.  To see him depart may feel like an extra bag of salt spilled onto a wound inflicted by the departure of Manny Machado and festered by Zach Britton's trip to the Bronx.  Adam Jones heralded in the build up to a magical 2012 and a strong dynasty during the Duquette years.  Jones embraced the community of Baltimore, married locally, spoke commandingly of social issues, and assumed the face of this franchise.  His void may not statistically match Machado's, but the essence of the club will receive a swift kick to the gut after he lays down the orange and black uniform for good.

Recently, a thought has emerged within the local scene that perhaps Adam Jones could be dealt away to another team in the next week to try to get that elusive ring and then come back to Baltimore to finish out his career, being an example to the next wave of Orioles.  This was bolstered by him buying Cal Ripken's Jr's old house and the word that his family has moved into it (to my knowledge, Jones summers in Baltimore and winters in San Diego) even though Jones has said that the house is simply part of his real estate dealings.  Additionally, Jones dinnered with John Angelos last week in Toronto where one wondered what exactly could they have discussed with the trade deadline looming.  Maybe Jones has talked to his idol Torii Hunter, who has expressed that he wished he could have stayed in Minnesota the whole time instead of taking his few year jaunt to Anaheim.

However, it is difficult to see how exactly Adam Jones fits in on a team supposedly going into a rebuild whose major minor league strength is found in the outfield.  While many think the long expected transition from center to right field is in store for Jones, the club actually has several right field options ready to break through in 2019.  Actually, Jones' transition to a corner position may be problematic, regardless.  While Jones does have a plus arm that plays in any field, his range may well be an issue. 

Out of 51 qualifying centerfielders, Jones' sprint speed is measured as 26.7 ft/s, the slowest of any centerfielder in baseball.  As a right fielder, 47 players are faster than him.  As a left fielder, 49 players are faster than him.  Of course, speed is not all.  Jones will be able to make up for that lack of speed with potentially good routes and that strong arm may prevent some extra bases to offset those extra bases gained from a lack of range.  That said, it is possible that the improvement of defense seen from a shift from center to a corner still may not overcome what appears to be a diminishing of returns with his bat.

For a competitive club, the risk may be worth it.  Jones is proven.  He is known as a strong teammate who can balance the need for focus with levity.  While baseball data science scoffed at that importance a decade or more ago, teams value it and it appears that there is probably good reason why they value a strong clubhouse.  For a rebuilding team, that need is a bit less.  Young players still can benefit from go-betweens with coaches and good examples of clubhouse behavior, but, again, a guy like Jones who is at worst a dependable playoff quality role player is not really the kind of guy you want.  You really want an elder statesman type of player who needs time off and is not as feverishly competitive.

When one thinks of players like that, Jones is probably a good three years from that.  Possibilities could include players like Rajai Davis, Denard Span, Curtis Granderson, Hunter Pence, Brett Gardner, or maybe even Nick Markakis (but his bat coming online this year probably lets him kick the can on that).  Markakis would probably be the fan favorite ideal.  He is about five years from getting his 3,000th hit and was a fan favorite.  One wonders if he really should be in the outfield anymore and the club already is bogged down in the near term with Chris Davis at 1B or DH.

Regardless, the Orioles, in a rebuild state, can provide plate appearances to a bevy of potentially really good young outfield talents.  Not only does this mean to get time for guys like Cedric Mullins (LF, CF, ~RF, 23 yo; 127 wRC+) and DJ Stewart (LF, ~RF), 24 yo, 113 wRC+) who are currently in Norfolk, but also to get longer looks at older players like Joey Rickard (LF, ~CF, ~RF, 27 yo; 145 wRC+) and Mike Yastremski (LF, ~CF, ~RF, 27 yo; 133 wRC+) before they are fully supplanted by Yusniel Diaz (LF, ~CF, RF, 21 yo, 147 wRC+), Austin Hays (LF, ~CF, RF, 23 yo, 70 wRC+), and maybe Ryan Mountcastle if he cannot handle third base.  Behind them, you have players like Ryan McKenna (LF, CF, 21 yo, 104 wRC+), Anthony Santander (LF, RF, 23 yo, 90 wRC+), and Ademar Rifaela (LF, RF, 23 yo, 86 wRC+).

Without a veteran that needs frequent game time, you can create a laboratory where you can expose your young talent to Major League pitching and see where the true value is.  It gives you the opportunity to bear slumps and let players experience failure and resiliency without a veteran looking on and seeing how much more capable he is currently in the moment than they are.

It is true that the beginning of the year may not present itself with a true outfield with MLB ready competency, but, again, a rebuilding club does not need to worry about that.  A rebuilding club does not need to worry about re-signing a Mark Trumbo because you question whether Trey Mancini can cut it.  A rebuilding club does not need to corner the market on well tread, but potentially viable bats when wins and losses quickly become unimportant.

Really what makes the most sense is for the club to send off Adam Jones with affection.  Let him find a competitive club where he can try to get that ring for another few years before a homecoming as a part-time player.  Or maybe, he finds the market to his dislike this winter.  Then maybe, he pulls a Moustakas, takes a small one year deal where the club agrees to try to place him on a contender next July.

Jones certainly is a player who has earned our respect and has earned his right to do with his career whatever he chooses to do.  For him and the Orioles, the best thing is probably for the relationship between them to end, for now.


Unknown said...

As much as I love and respect him as an Oriole I just don't see his benefit to the team. He shouldn't have to go through a rebuild either.

Unknown said...

Jones power is down this year, but he's still batting .280 and playing a decent CF. Machado and Jones were the only ones hitting the ball, until Schoop came on recently. I like to see him sign a reasonable 2-3 year deal and stay here. I don't think our minor league players will be ready till then. And if one is, RF is available, even LF is available if you move Mancini to 1st and let Davis DH. Will Jones sign a reasonable small year contract, I don't know. This is his last real chance to cash in.

Jon Shepherd said...

Mullins is ready for CF time right now. Diaz will be ready for MLB time next year. Then you have about 6 guys in AA and AAA who have some probability to emerge for 2019. All of that conflicts with even signing Jones to a one year deal unless Jones is willing to drop his plate appearances by 200.