A few times this off season when the topic of trading Adam Jones has come up, I've heard the Washington Nationals as a possible good fit due to their need for a center fielder. Their primary center fielder in 2011 was Rick Ankiel, who is now a free agent (and who also isn't very good). The Nats have just four outfielders on their forty-man roster: Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Roger Bernadina, and Eury Perez. Harper and Werth are corner outfielders, and while Perez is a CF and a decent prospect, he's only 21 and hasn't played above A+. That leaves Bernadina, who can play CF but who really belongs on the bench as the fourth outfielder.
The Nats have a good core for their future lineup with Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Michael Morse, and Jayson Werth (if he can bounce back) in the majors, with Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon waiting in the wings. Adding Adam Jones to the mix would give them even more firepower with which to support their promising starting rotation.
We get down on Adam Jones a lot around here, but the fact is that he's a good player and getting better. He's not a superstar, but he can hit for power and he plays one of the toughest positions on the field adequately (he'd probably be better in left field, but that's another story). His OBP was an unfortunate .319 in 2011, but if he can get it back up to at least .330 (and I believe he can), he'll really be valuable.
Jones is under team control for just two more seasons and will hit the free agent market at the ripe age of 28, so if the Orioles aren't prepared to offer him a lucrative extension (or if they think he won't take it), trading him makes sense.
What do the Nationals have that might be a good fit for a trade? Well, nothing on their major-league roster. The players on their roster is either not good enough, like Bernadina, Chien-Ming Wang, Tom Gorzelanny, etc., or they're too good, like Zimmerman, Ramos, and the bullpen duo of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard who are both locked up for many more years.
The Nats do have quite a bit of promise in the minors, though, so my choice would be a trade for RHP Brad Peacock and and LHP Sammy Solis. With Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and John Lannan at the top of their rotation with Wang, Gorzelanny, Tom Milone, and Ross Detwiler in the mix, they might be willing to part with the two pitchers in exchange for Jones. That's not to mention prospects A.J. Cole, Alex Meyer, and Matt Purke in the lower minors, all with promise.
Peacock was drafted in the 41st round of the 2006 draft, so he came into the game as a long shot. He has worked his way up through the minors steadily and split his time between AA and AAA in 2011, and made his major-league debut in September for the Nationals. In AA he pitched to a 2.01 ERA with 11.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, and a WHIP of 0.861. He then made nine starts at AAA with a 3.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9, and 4.5 BB/9. He'll be 24 years old next season and could eventually be a mid-rotation starter.
Solis was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, but has seen his stock fall with injuries. He has been experiencing elbow soreness in the Arizona Fall League, and he was limited to only ten starts in the minors last season due to a groin injury that he suffered during spring training.
He's a risk because of the injuries (especially depending on what happens with his elbow), but he's a very good pitcher when he's on the mound. He has very good control, his fastball is in the low 90s, and he has a good change-up and curve.
Adding these two pitchers to the O's system would be a step in restocking the minors for the future big league team. Peacock might even help the team in 2012. As I become increasingly convinced the Orioles won't compete in the next few years, it makes sense to me to add these guys to the Orioles stock than to spend the next two years with Adam Jones. It might seem like a stretch to ask for two prospects that would be listed by most in the top fifteen in the Nats system, but given their depth and the question marks around Solis' health, I think it could work.
That of course leaves a big hole in center field for the Orioles, and the Nationals certainly don't have anyone to fill that void for them. I'd suggest signing free agent Coco Crisp to a one-year deal. Crisp is coming off of a two-year, $10.5M contract with the Athletics but he had a disappointing 2011 that saw both his OBP and SLG drop so he might be gotten at a lower price. If the Orioles could sign him for $4M or less, they'd get a player that isn't as good as Adam Jones, but who is light years ahead of Matt Angle. Since Adam Jones will probably get at least $6M in arbitration next year, this deal plus the Nats trade would save the team a few million dollars in 2012 and give them two more prospects for the future.
For more information on Peacock and Solis, check out: