Veteran Orioles outfielder Adam Jones is an interesting trade candidate this summer as he prepares to hit the free-agent market following the season, and he could fit the Indians’ needs, as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi pointed out Friday:
Adam Jones to #Indians is among the viable trade possibilities as Baltimore and Cleveland continue dialogue on multiple players. Indians looking for a right-handed outfield bat. Jim Leyland raved about Jones’ leadership qualifies in @WBCBaseball. @MLBNetwork @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 13, 2018
Cleveland is in desperate need of an outfielder for the stretch run, as Michael Brantley is its only healthy outfielder with an OPS+ above 80 (to put that another way, Tyler Naquin, Rajai Davis, Greg Allen, and Brandon Guyer, as well as the already-optioned Bradley Zimmer, all rank at least 20 percent below league average at the plate). While Jones wouldn’t completely solve the Indians’ outfield problems, he’d certainly have a solid chance at finding more success than those guys have had, especially playing his home games in a hitters’ park like Progressive Field.
Jones, who has been with the Orioles since being acquired from the Mariners in a blockbuster deal for Erik Bedard in February 2008, is Baltimore’s longest-tenured player, and there have been rumors that he could end up re-signing with the O’s this offseason. But it’s not as if he’s been a career-long member of the Orioles — he played in 73 games with Seattle to begin his career — so there shouldn’t be any concerns about tarnishing a legacy if Baltimore decides to move him at the deadline. As his career winds down, a trade may be the best move for both sides, as Jones deserves a chance to try to win a World Series, and it makes sense for the Orioles to take advantage of any return they can get for a pending free agent whose skills seem to be fading a bit anyway.
Jones, who turns 33 next month, remains a solid contributor at the plate, even if his skills have evaporated a bit with age. While playing for an Orioles team that has a chance to finish with a historically-terrible record, he’s posted a decent .275/.300/.422 slash line with 10 homers in 383 plate appearances. He’s just a year removed from hitting .285/.322/.466 with 26 homers in 635 PAs, and though he’s never been adept at taking walks and likely never will be, he’s still got the contact-hitting skills and power to help a contender, even if that power hasn’t been exceptionally evident through the first half.
While he remains a strong offensive contributor, Jones has taken a downward turn on defense, and it’s possible that whatever team he joins next will need to move him to a corner-outfield spot. Jones has been one of the worst defensive center fielders in the majors this season according to advanced metrics, as he ranks 18th among qualifiers at the position with -16 defensive runs saved and has a league-worst -19.3 UZR/150. Though he was a firmly above-average defender in his 20s, this is now the third straight season in which Jones has had negative defensive runs saved — he had -10 in 2016 and -12 last year. With Cleveland’s lack of intriguing options at the position, however, he still may end up slotting into center field; Rajai Davis has been the team’s best defender in center this year but has struggled to produce with the bat, while Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer have been solid but unspectacular there and Greg Allen has downright struggled in center. Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall have limited experience in center field but haven’t logged time there this year, and neither is likely to be transitioned there down the stretch, especially since Chisenhall will be coming off his second calf strain of the year when he returns in September. After all, Jones hasn’t played a corner-outfield spot since joining the Orioles in 2008, so a mid-season transition could be troublesome.
It’s unlikely that Jones would command a huge return since he’s a pending free agent, soon-to-be 33 years old, and has been rather average this year, but Cleveland has a deep farm system that should be able to satisfy whatever needs Baltimore might have if the teams ultimately decide to pursue a deal.