The Orioles took another step in their rebuilding effort today, giving center fielder Cedric Mullins his long-awaited promotion to the major leagues.
Mullins, who will wear No. 3, is joining the O’s in Baltimore, where he will presumably be installed as the Birds’ everyday center fielder for the foreseeable future. That, of course, means Adam Jones — who has held that center field spot in Baltimore for the last decade — will be moving to a corner spot. The beat writers reported that Jones was taking fly balls in right field during O’s warmups on the club’s just-completed road trip.
Indeed, Jones is in right field for the opener of the Orioles’ four-game series with the Red Sox. Mullins is in center, batting ninth.
The times they are a-changin. @cedmull30 makes his major league debut, playing CF.@SimplyAJ10 in RF for tonight’s game vs Boston. #Birdland pic.twitter.com/idLeuBORy9— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 10, 2018
It’s the first time Jones has ever started in right field — or at any defensive position other than center field — in his 11-year Orioles career. His only two previous starts in right came in 2007, when he was a rookie with the Seattle Mariners.
Jones tweeted his approval shortly after the move was announced.
End of an Era!!!! Embrace Change!!!!— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) August 10, 2018
Mullins, the Orioles’ 13th-round pick in the 2015 draft, has been steadily moving up the ladder of the Birds’ system, boosting his prospect status at every stop. He started this season at Double-A Bowie, earning a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk after hitting .313/.362/.512 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 49 games.
At Norfolk, Mullins’ bat wasn’t quite as potent, but he hit .267/.332/.425 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 59 games. Between Bowie and Norfolk, the speedster has also swiped 21 bases in 22 attempts, a very good ratio indeed. Those overall numbers are more than acceptable for a center fielder, especially one who’s as strong defensively as Mullins.
And therein lies the real key in the Mullins promotion: it gives the Orioles an immediate defensive upgrade in center field, where the club has been lagging for years. Per FanGraphs, Jones has had negative value with the glove since 2016, posting -10 Defensive Runs Saved that year, -12 in 2017, and a whopping -18 so far this season. By Statcast’s Outs Above Average measure, Jones ranks third-worst in the AL with a -10 mark this year. (One of the two worse players than him is his teammate Trey Mancini, who has -11 OAA in left field.)
Orioles fans have been calling for Mullins’ promotion for weeks, but Jones’ decision to invoke his 10/5 trade veto rights to stay in Baltimore has complicated the timing. Not helping matters was the stomach bug that Mullins recently suffered, which kept him out of the Norfolk lineup for the last three days. Mullins is presumably healthy now, and Jones has willingly stepped aside for him, so here we go.
To make room for Mullins on the roster, the Orioles designated Danny Valencia for assignment. While it’s not a shock that the Orioles parted ways with Valencia — a 33-year-old who doesn’t really figure into the plans of a rebuilding team — it’s somewhat surprising that they haven’t yet found a trade partner for the lefty-mashing veteran, who has hit southpaws for a .312 average and .864 OPS in his career. Still, it’s possible the O’s will find a place to deal him in the next few days, if for nothing else than a fringe prospect. Otherwise, he’ll be released.
The Cedric Mullins era has begun. Are you excited?