During this Winter, we have posed the following question to 14 writers and analysts across the game:
“In a Baseball America poll (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/ma … 12213.html) of Major League Managers, Adam Jones was ranked as the 2nd best defensive CF in the American League. On the other-side you have the most advanced defensive metrics which state Jones is a below average CF. I tend to believe that the truth lies between those two extremes. Jones finished ’11 with a Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) of .339, and his Isolated Power (ISO) was .185. For the 2nd consecutive year, he played in 149+ games. For the 3rd consecutive year his OPS fell within the range of .767 to .792. He finished with 25 homers, and 26 doubles. Jones is a Free Agent after the 2013 season. By Opening Day 2012, do you think the O’s need to have either extended him or traded him? If you would like to see him extended, what type of contract do you think would be fair?”
Here are their responses:
Dan Szymborski, ESPN / BBTF:
“I’m a believer in making decisions, pay or trade. The Orioles are not a competitive team as I write this, so treading water doesn’t make sense. All significant decisions the team makes should be long-term ones, not geared to maximizing wins in 2012. This is an element that’s been completely missing from the organization for 15 years now and a big contributor to the non-sexy results in the interim. I’d probably offer Jones a 3/30 extension and if he doesn’t bite, see if any GMs love his glove more than I do.”
Jonathan Mitchell, MLB Dirt:
“I think an extension would be great. He has 30 homer power and plays an adequate center. You don’t come by those guys easily. An extension in the 4yr $34M-$36M range sounds appropriate. He is due about $5.8M in 2012 through arbitration and likely $8M in 2013. The next two years buys out his first two in free agency at roughly $10M-$11M each. He would still hit the open market at age 30.”
Bob Harkins, NBC Sports / Hardball Talk:
“I agree with you about Jones’ defense. I think it’s safe to call him an above-average center fielder who occasionally makes the spectacular play. On offense, he’s remained pretty static the last three seasons – good but not great. When you combine the offense and the defense, plus the fact that he is only entering his age 26 season, I think it’s definitely worth looking at an extension. Jones still has upside, but even if he never improves over what he is now, he’s still a valuable player. I think the wise course of action is to approach Jones with an extension offer, and if you can get him at a decent value and buy out at least some of his free agency years (4 years, $22 million?) then you do the deal. Otherwise, there is really no need to rush on this, as he’s not eligible for free agency until 2014, and a lot can happen in two years.”
Matt Klaassen, FanGraphs / Beyond the Boxscore
“The short version of this is that the Orioles probably either need to extend Jones this off-season or start looking for a trade partner. After 2012, Jones will only have one year left to free agency, so if he’s healthy, he has not big incentive not to take arbitration and then test free agency after 2013., This is the only time left that the Orioles will probably have leverage. If they go to arbitration, Jones would probably get around $6 million, then with a decent year, probably at least $9 million after 2013.
Taking all the evidence into account (statistical and otherwise), I think Jones is an average center fielder at best, at this point, and that might be generous. Once you adjust for the run environment, he probably had the best offensive season of his career in 2011> The improvement in power is nice, but Jones still a a free-swinger with below-average contact abilities While he’ll only be 26 to start 2012, that is not all that young, and so he probably is about as good as he will ever be, even if he is not yet in decline.
People often say “Team X should sign Player Y to a club-favorable contract.” Sure, by definition, any player should be signed to a “club favorable” contract (unless you are looking at it from the player or agent’s perspective). For the Orioles I would not go beyond something like 3/25 or 4/32 guaranteed for Jones, and even that might be a bit steep, depending on what you think of his defense. That would give him security and the Orioles some of his free agent years, while potentially adding value down the road if they want to trade him (club options are always nice, but that’s obvious). But they need to be thinking, “what can we do to maximize Jones value to us whther he keep him or trade him,” not “how can we build around Adam Jones. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, weirder things have happened (Jose Bautista), and I’m wrong a lot.”
David Pinto, Baseball Musings / Baseball Analytics:
“I think, like Markakis, Jones may be better off traded. He has not turned out to be an outstanding player. He has a little time, as he just entered his prime years, but 2200 at bats into his career he remains a out machine, and is just not the kind of player to build around.”
Gary Armida, Baseball Report / Baseball Digest:
“Jones has tools, but I would wait until at least Spring Training of 2013 before thinking about extending him. I fear he becomes Alex Rios rather than Torii Hunter, which looks to be his ceiling. That type of contract depends on his growth over the next two seasons. I need an OBP better than .325 or .319 out of him. I need his defense to be more consistent, although I agree that defensive metrics are still having a hard time giving an accurate read on players. I’d wait to extend him. Actually, I might be in the minority, but I’d actually hope he gets off to a great start and trade him. He’s a good player, but I don’t think he’s a foundation player.”
DJ Short, NBC Sports / Hardball Talk:
“Jones at least showed some more power last season, but he hasn’t made much progress with his plate discipline. He’s 26 years old right now, so at least he’s entering what should be his prime seasons. There’s also a wide range of opinions on his defense, so I’m honestly not sure what to believe. He obviously has a lot more value if he can stick in center as opposed to a corner outfield spot, where his offensive output would be pretty underwhelming.
The Orioles don’t have many marketable trade chips, as I mentioned above, but Jones is one they should look to cash in on. We heard some conflicting reports earlier this month about a potential deal with the Braves involving Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens. It doesn’t really matter whether it was true or not, but this is exactly the sort of deal the Orioles shouldn’t be doing. Prado and Jurrjens will both be free agents before the Orioles will be legit contenders. If they deal Jones, they need prospects and/or long-term assets in return.”
David Schoenfield, ESPN:
“He’s a good player, but not a great one – the kind of player who is usually slightly overrated by his own organization and fan base. If he’s a 2-win player, he’s worth about $10 million per season in free agency; if he’s a 3-win player, he’s worth about $15 million in free agency. He hasn’t shown any improvement in his strike-zone judgment, so I don’t believe he’s going to get better (which doesn’t mean he can’t produce a career-year type of season at some point). I don’t think he’s the type of players that other organizations especially covet, so you’re unlikely to receive a team’s No. 1 prospect for him.”
Jason Parks, Baseball Prospectus
“I actually like Jones quite a bit, but if you believe in building the team back up, he is a piece that would have value on the market and could help start the process of re-stocking the farm. I can think of several teams that would have interest in Jones and be willing to drop a few prospects to land him.”
Marc Normandin, SB Nation
“I’m not sure the Orioles are close enough – or have a full enough farm system – to hold on to Jones. He’s a great talent, and he’s only going to get better, but given the way top free agents have avoided Baltimore, the team might be better off dealing him to restock their farm or to bring some young, cost-controlled talent to the club. As for fair, the Orioles need to shoot high, and bring back multiple, legitimate prospects.”
Satchel Price, MLB Daily Dish
“It really depends on how the Orioles evaluate Jones. If they believe that he may be due for a breakout in 2012, I don’t think you can deal him unless some other team will blow you away. Basically, if some team will treat Jones like he’s already a young star and return that kind of value, it may be worthwhile to trade him. But at this point, he’s just an above-average player and an enigma, although scouts continue to believe that he’s capable of further improvements. If the Orioles believe that Jones is near his peak already, trading him makes a good deal of sense.”
Brandon Warne, FanGraphs
“It all depends on what kind of cash he’s looking for right now. With one more arbitration-eligible season after this, it’d probably take something like $10 million per annum to lock him up. If you think he’s going to grow into a bit more well-rounded at the dish, you probably lock him up. Especially if he gives you a somewhat accommodating deal, since he’d still be trade-able anyway. It does hinge on a lot of things, however. How soon do you see your club contending? Is Jones likely to be a part of that core group? If not, what can he fetch on the market? A good center fielder could fetch quite a bit. Maybe dangle him to the Nationals? In that case, wait and see if Jayson Werth crashes and burns in center. Desperation is an ugly thing in baseball, and could mean the Nats will want a centerfielder in the worst way. Long rambling diatribe aside, I’d hold Jones for the short-term, maybe open talks around mid-season, and all the while make other GMs aware that he’s not untouchable, but not cheap, either.”
Matthew Pouliot, NBC Sports / Hardball Talk
“I thought the Orioles should have been very open to trading him. The problem there is that, with the obvious exception of the Nationals, no one was out there shopping for a long-term center fielder this winter. The Giants should have been, but they settled for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. The Rangers were content to let their trio of candidates battle it out this spring. Most everyone was content, whether they should have been or not. The Braves seemed to be the only team interested in making a run at Jones, and they actually would have stashed him in left field for a year.
I don’t watch Jones enough to have a strong opinion on his defense, but I think of him as pretty average in center field; better than the numbers and plenty good enough to remain in center for a few more years. A leap forward offensively is still a possibility, but I’m not as optimistic about that as some are. I’m pretty skeptical that he’ll be worth what he’s going to get paid in his next contract, which is why I would have advocated trading him. Still, I doubt there was any sort of blockbuster return available for him this winter. Now, if the Nationals had been willing to give up for Jones what they did for Gio Gonzalez, the Orioles would have been smart to jump.”
Jim Callis, Baseball America
“I agree, Jones is more solid regular than franchise player. Given that he’s going to keep getting more expensive, I’d try to trade him for the right package. I wouldn’t trade him just for the sake of trading him, but I’d deal him for a package of prospects and young players if I found one that piqued my interest.”
As we know, Jones avoided arbitration for this year with a 1 year $6.15M contract. The responses above indicate that most agree he can be a piece of a good team, but not a franchise player. With the beginning of Spring Training, it seems apparent that the O’s will not have extended or traded Jones prior to Opening Day. The next time to watch will be the non-waiver deadline. What are the O’s doing on the field at that time? If they are again buried in the standings, will they look to trade him? If they are exceeding current expectations, will they look to extend? It should be noted that Dan Duquette has stated he believes in-season negotiations to be a distraction.
What are your thoughts? Let us know at the BSL Message Board: