Most Orioles fans should welcome the rebuilding direction the team is taking with the franchise now that Manny Machado has been traded to the Dodgers. The Angelos sons appear to have shifted the team’s priorities, and Dan Duquette is saying all the right things about the club putting a greater emphasis on scouting, increasing the use of analytics to judge performance, and diving into the previously ignored international market for talent.
Duquette has also made it clear that he’s interested in adding younger players with the hope that they – like the successful Houston Astros – can progress as a unit in the minors and bring that attitude and success with them to the big leagues.
This youth movement makes it likely that the team won’t pursue a reunion with Adam Jones, the team’s unquestioned leader, once he becomes a free agent. Duquette all but confirmed that when he was asked about Jones’ future with the Orioles,
“I think the club is in the rebuild mode, and we’re going to be taking a look at some younger ballplayers going forward. We’ve made that clear. That’s the intent of the club. That’s the direction we’re going to go in.”
One would think the Orioles would have at least some interest in re-signing Jones, given his work ethic and leadership skills. He would be a natural to provide veteran guidance for a young and inexperienced squad over the next couple of years and a two-year deal wouldn’t cost the team much. However, even if the interest is there, the problem is lack of room on the roster.
Next year’s club should showcase a number of Baby Bird outfielders like Cedric Mullins, D.J. Stewart, Austin Hays – and maybe newly acquired Yusniel Diaz. And thanks to the unwise contracts given to Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, two other spots on the 2019 offense are already spoken for. There’s only so much roster room to allocate to veterans for their leadership, so Jones will likely be playing elsewhere after this season.
It’s Mullins Time
But Jones is likely to remain an Oriole for the rest of this season, unless things take a dramatic turn before today’s 4 p.m. MLB trade deadline. It seems that Jones has decided to refuse a trade in order to stay in Baltimore. He has earned that right, but that doesn’t mean he should continue as the Orioles’ center fielder.
The youth movement has been declared, and Cedric Mullins needs to be patrolling center field right away. He is the future, and he might as well be the present, too.
Mullins has had a bit of an up-or-down season with the Tides after earning a promotion from Double-A Bowie earlier in the season. What he has done has been enough to show that he’s ready to get a big league audition to see if he might be one of the players the O’s can start to count on as they build what will hopefully be the next good Orioles team.
It’s Mullins’s speed that stands out for the 5’ 8” 175-pound, athletic 23-year-old. He has successfully stolen 18 bags in 19 attempts and displays great range in the outfield.
And with Jones’ defensive skills fading rapidly, the young Orioles’ pitchers could use a boost with the leather from such an important position. According to Fangraphs, Jones’ Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150) has dropped from 3.9 in 2015 to -14.4 last year and -16.3 in 2018. He should welcome a move to right field and the opportunity to help Mullins transition as the new centerfielder over the remainder of the season. The Orioles pitching staff could use the help.
Let’s hope Jones and the team make the most of his final games in an Oriole uniform. Even two months of his influence on younger players, like Mullins, would be valuable for the rebuilding Orioles and make for a nice ending to a storied career in Baltimore.