Few, if any, Baltimore sports fans have anything other than fond memories of Adam Jones with the Orioles. Unfortunately for Jones, the fond memories of Orioles fans aren’t sufficient to sustain an MLB career. Jones didn’t get a 2019 contract signed until March 11, less than a month before Opening Day.
It seems that Jones doesn’t want to wait until then to find out where he’ll play in 2020. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday afternoon that Jones is in talks with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) league. According to Rosenthal, the two sides are talking about a deal for multiple seasons.
Jones, who is 34 now, started off the 2019 season fairly well, with a March/April OPS of .860 followed by a .790 OPS in May. Despite that early success, Jones finished the season with a .260/.313/.414 batting line. That may not be Chris Davis levels of struggle, but the park-/league-adjusted OPS+ stat pegs that line at 87, or 13 percent below the average player.
When combined with his declining defensive value, Jones ended up in the negatives for Wins Above Replacement for the 2019 season. By Baseball Reference, he was at -0.4, while Fangraphs put him at -0.1. He had to settle for the $3 million deal he signed for 2019 well into spring training, and might have had to wait even longer for less than that just to try to keep chasing an MLB career.
MLB.com’s Statcast-oriented writer Mike Petriello has noted that Jones is basically the platonic ideal of the aging curve for baseball players:
Now with 2019 added. This is art, really. This is the purest aging curve you can find. It even has the age-27 peak. pic.twitter.com/jEh8lCkhjX— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) September 27, 2019
When a guy hits the back side of his career and gets to 0 again, that’s pretty much that - unless, like Jones is considering, he wants to head overseas, where the games will still be competitive but the competition simply isn’t MLB-caliber.
As a nice bonus, Orix even has the same first three letters as Orioles. I’m sure that has nothing to do at all with Jones’s decision but I find it delightful nonetheless. Orix is not a place; it’s a financial services company. The team plays its games in Osaka, the second-largest metropolitan area in Japan, behind Tokyo.
At 61-75, Orix had the second-worst record of any NPB team in the 2019 campaign. They were the worst-hitting team in the NPB’s Pacific League. They could probably use a guy with Jones’s skills and MLB experience.
Jones might not have ever gotten to win a World Series here, which is a bummer, but if he heads overseas, I’ll be rooting for him to find some more glory and good times. And maybe they’ll even let him keep smashing pies into teammates faces after big wins. If Google Translate is telling me the truth, the Japanese word for pie is just “pai.”