The Orioles have not formally moved on from Adam Jones quite yet. How could they, when they haven’t named a new general manager or president of baseball operations? That being said, all signs point to Jones having played his last game as a Baltimore Oriole.
When considering the Orioles GM search, keep in mind that they once had a guy that turned Erik Bedard into Jones, Chris Tillman and George Sherrill. Jones came to Baltimore by way of Seattle in the 2008 offseason.
When reflecting on Jones, it’s difficult to focus on just this past year. With his black and orange tenure coming to a close, so much was made of his leadership on and off the field in Baltimore. Rightfully so.
Quite frankly, it’s much more enjoyable to focus on the person Adam Jones than it is to recall the Orioles 2018 season. The countless charity events and appearances, the post-game pies, and some clutch hitting too. The accolades like a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award rank up there with the class and candor he’s displayed over the years. Still, it’s worth taking a look at what was likely the outfielder’s last season in Baltimore.
While several Orioles regressed across the board, Jones maintained career average numbers in several categories. The lifetime .278 hitter actually eclipsed his average with a .281 batting average. In only two fewer games, he cut his strikeouts by 20 compared to 2017. He had seven more doubles than the year before, and only four fewer than the 39 he tallied in his 162-game, All-Star campaign in 2012.
While his seven stolen bases were hardly anything to write home about, he hadn’t swiped more bags since 2013. Working a walk was never a selling point for Jones, and that narrative continued in 2018. However, the cut down on strikeouts helped mask his minuscule count of 24 base on balls.
The biggest change for the former Seattle prospect was a dip in home runs. Jones managed only 15 round-trippers in 580 at bats. The power outage resulted in his lowest home run total since he played 132 games in 2008, and marked the first time he didn’t surpass 20 home runs since he tallied 19 in 2009 and 2010.
The lack of the long ball, coupled with a lowly Baltimore offense, resulted in only 65 runs batted in. His 63 RBI total was his lowest since 2008. However, he had been declining in the category since a career-high 108 in 2013.
Then there’s the defense. A four time Gold Glove award winner, Jones gained the reputation as an elite defender throughout the league. While the merit of those awards can be challenged by advanced statistics, nobody wins three consecutive Gold Gloves without playing above average center field.
To avoid clogging the page with sabermetrics, I’ll link to Jones’ advanced fielding stats from baseball-reference here. You can pick your poison in regards to which statistic you feel most accurately represents a player’s performance, but the majority show a downtick in 2018.
While Jones was never elite in certain advanced defensive categories, he began to fail the eye test this past year. His play, paired with the team’s performance, made it painfully obvious that things weren’t working as well as they used to. The Orioles were forced to make a change.
On August 10, the Orioles called up heralded prospect Cedric Mullins to play center field, and shifted Jones to right. At the time of the shift, Jones had a -18 defensive runs saved in center field. He put up a -6 DRS in 33 games of right field to close the season.
While the numbers were ugly, the class in which Jones handled the entire situation served as a perfect example of the player’s character. He tackled the “passing of the torch” with poise, and appeared to be a mentor for Mullins. He didn’t hang his head, he never stopped running out ground balls, and he stopped short of complaining to the media. He never claimed to be happy about it, but he never threw the organization under the bus at a time when it was easy to do so.
While his 11th-inning walkoff home run on opening day feels like a life time ago, the 33-year old was insistent he has more left in the tank. While he’ll likely seek out a multi-year deal, several contenders would benefit from a one-year investment in Jones. He refused to rule out a return to Baltimore next season.
Hidden in the potential farewell is the fact that Adam Jones can still help a team win games. He’s a veteran, a leader, and a .281 hitter that plays hard every day. Whether or not it’s worth Baltimore taking a run at him again is a question for another day, but Adam Jones has some baseball left in him.