Outfielder Adam Jones, an Orioles legend, is a free agent, and while there is a good argument for the team to keep him in Baltimore, it appears there is a market for him with other teams.
Jones, 33, would be an asset for the Orioles because of his stature, leadership and his ability to play right field. But, he’d have to sign a team-friendly contract and deal the growing pains of a rebuilding. And it would awkward to return after his emotional good-bye at Camden Yards at the end of the season.
However, Jones, who wants to finish his career with a team that has a chance to make the World Series, might be a free agent at the right time. There will be teams that will want him, assuming the price is reasonable.
Start with Cleveland, a team that was interested in Jones at the last trade deadline.
The Indians are the favorite to win the weak American League Central in 2019 because of their strong rotation. Their outfield is the team’s biggest instability.
Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall will be free agents and likely not returning. Brad Zimmer is still recovering from a shoulder injury. Jason Kipnis, who moved from third base to the outfield to make room for Josh Donaldson in 2018, would be the left fielder. Other options are Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin. Kipnis could move to left with Jones in right.
Philadelphia tried to get Jones from the Orioles at the trade deadline last summer, but Jones used his 10-and-5 contract rights to veto a trade. He didn’t like that the Phillies were going to use him in a platoon situation. And it wasn’t long after he turned down the trade, the Phillies started their end-of-season fade in the National League East.
The Phillies have money to spend and their priority is a run-producing bat, so that’s why the speculation about their interest in free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. For now, the Phillies have Rhys Hoskins in left and Odúbel Herrera in center with a group of second-tier players competing in right field, including Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr.
It is possible Jones and Machado could be reunited as teammates in Philadelphia. Or, maybe Jones plays in the outfield with Harper and Herrera, moving Hoskins to first base after a possible Carlos Santana trade.
Jones could end with Seattle, the team that drafted him and traded him to the Orioles. The staple in the Mariners outfield is Mitch Haniger. Dee Gordon, who played center field last season, is listed as second baseman. The Mariners might be in need of two outfielders, considering the roster includes the aging Denard Span, Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel. Jones would fit well with a team has designs on making the playoffs. And the Mariners have already claimed John Andreoli, an outfielder with speed by no consistent on-base ability, for depth in the minor leagues. Andreoli had a 23-game look with the Orioles before he returned to the Seattle organization.
Or maybe Jones follows in the footsteps of his former Orioles teammate, Nick Markakis, and plays right field for the Braves. Atlanta, the NL East champ, has built the foundation and is looking to spend money on pitching. But, they are going to need a right fielder, and if free agent Markakis doesn’t stay, Jones might be a fit.
San Francisco needs outfielders, but who knows which direction the Giants are going to go? Does the fact that last season, they acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen - another mid-30s outfielder edging past his prime - and traded him to the Yankees have an influence on what the Giants might think about Jones?
The Giants are in that predicament of trying to keep the window open and rebuilding the roster with youth and athleticism.
Then, there is San Diego, Jones’ hometown. The Padres are looking for pitching, infielders and catching. Their outfield is flush, so there is no room for Jones there.
For Jones, that’s a good thing because, with thin pitching, the Padres aren’t ready to contend in the NL West.