For Baltimore Orioles fans, 2018 could be the end of an era as Adam Jones will become a free agent.
The fan-favorite Baltimore Orioles center fielder was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners, but he has been with the O’s since 2008.
As the majority of the media has been focusing on the impending free agency of Manny Machado and Zach Britton, it is worth remembering that the face of the franchise – Jones – is in the same position.
Jones by the numbers
Jones will enter the 2018 season at age 32. In his 10 years with the Orioles, he has won four Gold Glove awards and been to five All-Star Games. He also earned a Silver Slugger. With his athleticism and style, he has remained the one constant in the Orioles outfield in the last decade. Having him in a different uniform would definitely be a shock to his fans. His baseball prowess is evident in the number of MVP votes he received in the years between 2012 and 2014.
His numbers in Baltimore are worth noting. As the centerfielder for the O’s, he had one season with a WAR below 2.0. In 2016, he finished the season with a WAR of 1.1, which was his worst since playing for the Mariners. But, he rebounded in 2017 with a notably improved batting slash line and a WAR of 2.5. Despite being over the age of the 30, he is still helping the team get wins.
Compared to other centerfielders
When comparing him to other centerfielders, he consistently lands in the top 10 in defensive categories. For years, he has been in the top 10 in putouts, assists, and double plays turned as a center fielder. He also has earned recognition for range factor and fielding percentage. He has proven himself to be a good center fielder.
But, at age 32, will he be too old too soon to remain a centerfielder for much longer? There are older center fielders, but there are also young studs like Mike Trout and George Springer out there. Despite the age differences, Jones continues to hold his own. When comparing him to all centerfielders in 2017, Jones finished fifth in home runs (26), slugging percentage (.466), batting average (.285), and RBIs (73). The names above him include Charlie Blackmon, Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Lorenzo Cain. Interestingly, Blackmon, Cutch, and Cain are all 31 years old.
Can he keep going?
So, clearly, Jones is doing well. He might not be as fast as he was when he was 25. No one is. Even Trout doesn’t steal bases like he did when he first joined the MLB. Jones has had leg issues and missed games at the end of the season due to “general leg soreness.” Artificial turf does not help his legs, but otherwise, he hasn’t missed many games for other reasons. In fact, he averages 147 per season with the O’s.
Jones clearly has plenty of life left in his game. It would be a shame to see one of the best centerfielders in the game to wear a uniform other than the Orange and Black. However, now that he is getting older, he should reconsider his walk rate. The Orioles do not appear to be grooming anyone to take his place as Austin Hays has more of a chance to find a home in right field and Trey Mancini will be in left.
If Jones wants to stay in Baltimore, he might have to settle for a contract with less money and fewer years than his previous one. His previous contract was for $85.5 million for six years. It has done both him and the team well. Hopefully, the team can figure out an affordable way to keep Jones in Baltimore.