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Will Adam Jones be an Oriole in 2019?

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The Manny Machado trade will put the wheels of a Baltimore rebuild in motion. Even if Jones is traded, could he return as an Oriole in 2019?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It was difficult seeing Manny Machado be traded from the Orioles. It will trigger more trades of fan favorites and alter the direction of the franchise. While other players will be on the move, one of my first thoughts was how this new direction would affect the longest tenured Oriole, Adam Jones.

As we know, Jones is in the final year of the six year extension he signed during the 2012 season. He will be a free agent this offseason, but won’t command a mega deal like Machado will. As such, it is conceivable that he could re-sign in Baltimore even if he is traded before July 31.

It is impossible to know what Jones wants out of the remainder of his career. It is also impossible to know what the Orioles’ front office thinks about retaining Jones’ services (or who will even make up said front office this winter). Below are a few factors from multiple perspectives that could influence whether Jones will be an Oriole in 2019.

Winning

Jones has said on multiple occasions that winning a World Series ring is the main priority at this stage in his career. Anybody who has watched this ultimate competitor play would agree that he’s telling the truth. Despite this awful season, he has continued playing hard and “grinding” as he would say. As the O’s firesale continues, he may be traded and get another taste of a pennant run.

How would Jones’ desire to win impact his decision to sign with Baltimore this offseason? The club is on pace for one of the worst seasons in franchise history and just subtracted one of the most talented players in baseball from its roster. More trades are coming and the team is certainly headed into rebuild mode. If winning is the ultimate goal, it is unlikely that Jones will return to Baltimore in 2019.

Legacy

Legacy is something that seems to be of importance to Jones. He appears to value his place in Orioles history and the role he’s played as leader of this team. He has embraced the community and has been quite active on several charitable fronts. Anybody who has attended one of his #StayHungry tailgates understands how much he relishes and understands his role in Baltimore’s community. He did a magnificent job representing the African American community in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray situation. The guy loves Baltimore.

If Jones is thinking about the legacy he’ll leave in Baltimore and if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Cal, Brooks, and Palmer, he would have to play a few more seasons here. And there have been several occasions in which he’s indicated he’d like that.

Maybe Jones wants to solidify his place in Orioles history. If so, signing on to lead the O’s through a rebuilding process could appeal to him.

Value on the free agency market

Usually when fans reference the “business side” of the game as it relates to a free agent, it is synonymous with that player leaving for a larger contract. Interestingly, the fact that this is a business could drive Jones back to Baltimore.

What exactly would Adam Jones be worth on the open market? We are talking about a five-time All Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and two-time recipient of MVP votes. He has avoided any major injuries and carries the reputation of being consistent. But we’re also talking about a 33-year-old whose defensive range has diminished to the point where most scouts say he’ll need to move out of center field. His WAR is currently -0.1 this season and he hasn’t posted an OPS of over .787 since 2013. We saw last season that free agency wasn’t exactly kind to players. While huge dollars will be spent on the top free agents (Machado, Harper), the next tiers down will probably suffer compared to years past. The market seems to be especially unkind to aging and regressing players such as Jones and it is unlikely that Jones will receive lucrative contract offers this offseason.

Given his status as team leader and potential franchise icon, he may be worth more to the Orioles from a marketing and leadership perspective than he is to another club.

Space on the roster

Suppose Jones wants to be part of the O’s in 2019. Would the Warehouse want to make room for him in the outfield? The O’s farm system, scouting operations, and player development office have all been rightly criticized in recent years. But the future of their outfield looks solid. MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline lists three outfielders among the O’s top ten prospects (Austin Hays #2, Cedric Mullins #8, DJ Stewart #10). Their #1 prospect is Ryan Mountcastle and some scouts say he projects as a corner outfielder. These rankings do not currently include Ryan McKenna, who has seen his status rocket upward this season and will probably be the Orioles Minor League Player of the Year. The outfield situation is further enhanced by the acquisition of Yusniel Diaz, who has the highest ceiling of the bunch. Baseball America’s latest ranking lists him as the #47 prospect in baseball, highest in the Orioles’ system. Further complicating matters is the presence of Trey Mancini. Though in the midst of a sophomore slump, he had a fantastic 2017 season and will be blocked at first base by Chris Davis for the next four seasons.

It goes without saying that all the names just listed (except Mancini) are prospects and that there is no guarantee of them achieving any major league success. At the same time, Adam Jones is a proven major league player. But of the seven players mentioned, the numbers game suggests that three of them could be solid players for the Orioles. If this is to be a true rebuild, it makes sense to let younger and cheaper players have the opportunity to play and prove themselves.

Adam Jones is the face of the Orioles and will go down as one of the better players in franchise history. Given that, the effort put into signing him as a free agent this offseason will be examined closely. Fans will weigh and debate wanting a popular figure to remain versus getting younger and fully rebuilding.

What do you think?

Poll

Do you think Adam Jones will be an Oriole in 2019?

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  • 42%
    Yes
    (489 votes)
  • 57%
    No
    (674 votes)
1163 votes total Vote Now