Jones' return to Orioles in 2019 seems to make sense -

Rich Dubroff

Jones’ return to Orioles in 2019 seems to make sense

The Orioles’ Adam Jones dilemma can be summed up by quoting the great philosopher Buck Showalter: “If not him, then who?”

If the Orioles don’t re-sign Jones to play right field for the next year or two, then who will they play there?

When Cedric Mullins was promoted to play center field on Aug. 10, Jones moved over to right field. If someone else plays center, which is where Joey Rickard was  in Tuesday night’s 5-3 win over the Seattle Mariners, Jones stays in right.

At 33, Jones’ power numbers have slipped. With 14 homers and 55 RBIs this season, he’s heading for his lowest numbers since 2009. But his batting average, .282, and on-base percentage, .314, are close to his career numbers.

Jones had the chance to go elsewhere just ahead of July’s non-waiver trade deadline, but he vetoed a proposed trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. As a major leaguer with 10 years of service and five years with the Orioles, he had the right to decline the deal.

At the end of the season, Jones will be a free agent. He can survey the market and see if anything appeals to him. Will the Orioles be one of his suitors, and would he prefer to stay in Baltimore?

The answers are unknown, but there are reasons to think the Orioles would want to keep him for at least 2019 and perhaps 2020.

With the Orioles looking toward the future, they hoped they could feature an outfield of Mullins in center with DJ Stewart in left and Austin Hays in right.

However, Stewart, the team’s top draft pick in 2015, had a disappointing 2018, hitting only .235 at Triple-A Norfolk, and Hays missed much of the season because of an ankle injury. Hays, who hit .217 in 20 late-season games with the Orioles in 2017, batted just .242 in 66 games at Double-A Bowie.


Neither Hays nor Stewart was promoted when their minor league seasons ended Monday. Barring a bang-up spring training, both would be expected to start 2019 in the minor leagues.

The Orioles already are taking long looks at Rickard and John Andreoli, who was in left field on Tuesday. They’ve seen lots of Rickard, who was a Rule 5 draft choice in December 2015, in the last three seasons, and are seeing what Andreoli can do. Andreoli was picked up on waivers from Seattle last month.

Mark Trumbo might not be available to start next season. He’s scheduled for arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this week, and the projected rehab time is six months.

Even though Trumbo played just 19 games in right field this season, he hits better when playing in the field than when he’s strictly a designated hitter.

If Hays, Stewart and Trumbo aren’t with the Orioles to start next season, who will flank Mullins?

The Orioles would like to play Trey Mancini at first base more often next year, but without Stewart or Hays, he could begin next season back in left field.

Anthony Santander, the Rule 5 pick in December 2016, finally fulfilled his Rule 5 obligations in May, but a .249 average in the minors wasn’t enough to earn him a September promotion. He might not start the season with the Orioles next year, either.

Neither will Yusniel Diaz, the Cuban who was the centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, nor Ryan McKenna. Both Diaz and McKenna didn’t have an easy time at Bowie.

Diaz batted .239 in 29 games with the Baysox, and McKenna, who terrorized the Carolina League with a .377 average in 67 games for Class-A Frederick, hit only .239 in 60 games at Double-A.

The Orioles might re-sign Jace Peterson as a utility player, but he’s used more in the infield.

If not Diaz, Hays, McKenna, Santander, Stewart and Trumbo, then who? If Mancini is back in left, at least to start the season, there’s still an opening in right.

It’s likely the Orioles will try to sign some low-cost free agents as placeholders until the younger outfielders are ready for major league duty. The Orioles signed Craig Gentry, Alex Presley, Colby Rasmus and Danny Valencia to minor league contracts in the early part of spring training this year, but any free agents signed next year are going to have to contribute more than that group did.

If the Orioles don’t have a logical candidate to play right field for next year, what about Jones? If the Orioles need a bridge to the next generation, who better than Jones?

Jones would have to take a sizable pay cut from the $17.33 million he makes this season. The Orioles aren’t going to extend Jones a qualifying offer. In 2017, qualifying offers were $17.4 million. If the Orioles would give Jones a qualifying offer, he would most certainly take it. If Jones declined the qualifying offer, the team could get compensation.

Last winter’s free-agent marketplace was the most puzzling in memory. Veterans such as Jones were shunned, at least until late in the signing season. If that’s the case again, that could make it easier for Jones to return to the Orioles.

A move to bring back Jones would be a popular one with the fans, who have few players to identify with after the roster remake. In the absence of an obvious choice to play right field, a Jones return seems to make good sense for the Orioles, too.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 5, 2018 at 7:23 am

    The man is only 33, he still brings plenty to the table.

    Bringing him back would be popular with the fans? Damn straight it would be. But I think it would be better stated to say that if they didn’t bring him back, the fans would be … well let’s just say, that that would NOT be a popular decision with the fans. Quite the opposite.

    Adam Jones is an all-time Oriole. Let’s make sure he goes out with some dignity while wearing the black and orange. He’s earned that.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 8:46 am

      There are many fans who agree with you, Boog.

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      September 5, 2018 at 10:24 am

      I don’t know. I love AJ, one of my favorites of all time. I won’t like seeing him play somewhere else, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s scooped up by another team, or if the O’s simply decide to move in another direction. This isn’t the same kind of situation like when they moved on from Markakis and Cruz — this is a much different team in vastly different circumstances.

  2. cedar

    September 5, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Jones has shown time and again that he puts team and community above himself. In a rebuilding phase, this is the kind of veteran you want showing the younger players how to conduct themselves both on and off the field.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 8:47 am

      Cedar, I know that Adam will appreciate your comments.

  3. TxBirdFan

    September 5, 2018 at 8:56 am

    The O’s used to have a very popular right fielder who averaged 15 HRs a year with a .285 batting average, and they got rid of him. Nick Markakis is now an All-Star for the Braves. Adam Jones is a class act for a major league ball player. Let’s hope the O’s learned their lesson and bring him back for a couple of years.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 10:13 am

      Tx, the feeling between Jones and the Orioles has to be mutual.

  4. chico salmon

    September 5, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Sentimentality aside (I gave up being sentimental about professional athletes and owners a long time ago), this likely comes down to what kind of deal AJ is looking for. The Orioles are cutting payroll. If they can sign him to a 2 year $15mm, he might sign. If he gets 3 years from someone else for more money, he’s going to take it. The players union pressures players to maximize their contracts to continue to escalate salaries.

    Markakis is an example. He did not perform to his previous contract, but the Orioles offered him 3 years at $33mm (I believe). I’m sorry, but that was fair. Sentimentality aside (again), he takes 4 years and $44mm from Atlanta. It’s all about the money – always will be.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 10:14 am

      Chico, Jones is two years older than Markakis was at the time of his last contract. It will be interesting to see what Jones gets in the end.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      September 5, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      I’m not so sure it’s all about money with Adam. He’s already turned down a trade. I believe he wants to finish it up in Bal’more. Make him a fair offer and let’s see what happens. If he leaves on his own accord after that, so be it, but let’s seriousy attempt to retain him.

  5. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    September 5, 2018 at 9:32 am

    I would like to see him come back. He could mentor the younger players and be their clubhouse leader. He was a key
    component of the Bedard trade. This started their 3 playoff runs after 14 dismal seasons. He should finish his career here.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 10:15 am

      Grand Strand, I just don’t see a real alternative to Jones in right field next season.

      • Borg

        September 6, 2018 at 5:39 am

        I think that is a very accurate assessment of where the Os find themselves–they certainly have some future right fielders, but that’s the issue, they are future and not present. Not only is Jones still productive (he looks like a player who will still hit .280 with a .310 OBP in his last season whenever that is) but a young team needs leadership and he is the one who seems to accept that role.

        Jones seems like he could make an effective manager someday. The team they trot out there next year is going to need a clubhouse presence like he brings. Let’s hope he stays long enough to at least ex[perience the fruits of the rebuild. At 33 there is no reason he couldn’t still hold down right for three to five more seasons effectively.


    September 5, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Adam has always been loyal to the O’s and the city of Baltimore. Dumpster Diving Dan is the one who tried to leave (to Toronto). Who should we keep? I guess it depends on whether Peter or his sons make the decision.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 10:16 am

      The off-season will be a fascinating one, Victor.

  7. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    September 5, 2018 at 10:29 am

    I’d love to see AJ finish his career as an Oriole. I’d also love to see him get a chance to earn a championship. Unfortunately, they appear to be mutually exclusive potential events.

    I’m with Rich — I don’t know who else they’d put out there who would have a similar expected performance to Adam. But frankly, that’s not the main concern of rebuilding teams. They may see enough from any of those youngsters mentioned here to throw them out there for a whole season and see what happens. Like they did with Markakis back when he was a rookie.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 12:45 pm

      Zoey, as you wrote earlier, this is a much different situation from Markakis and Cruz in 2014. It just seems that it’s a logical, not sentimental move, to keep Jones around for a little while longer.

      • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

        September 5, 2018 at 4:58 pm

        Hey Rich! Thanks for replying.

        I’ll have to disagree just a tad, as I don’t think Jones returning to play RF makes much logical sense at all, unless it’s at a super discount and for perhaps a year. And even then I’m not sure I see the logic completely.

        “If not Jones, who?” is not a particularly compelling question for a rebuilding franchise. Having Jones or not isn’t going to matter to the 2019 Orioles, who will flirt with 90 losses even if they make a *massive* improvement of 25-ish games.

        The difference between Adam and any of those other dudes is that if they play Adam they’ll never know what the other guys can do. And Trumbo won’t be out all year, so he’ll continue to clog up DH and other as needed RF duties. Mancini really should be at DH and occasional 1B, but he’ll be clogging up the other corner outfield spot. I don’t see how thye could give routine at-bats to youngsters in LF or RF, and those are the postions in the minors that are closest to possibly being major-league ready. So they have to put a priority on figuring out who can play major league ball at those positions.

        They’re rebuilding and soon enough they’re gonna have to put Hays or Santander or someone out there to see what they can do, and with Jones/Mancini/Trumbo already on the roster and eating up AB’s and positions, I don’t see how they figure out which of the approximately 237 outfielders they have can actually play. And that’s the point of the rebuild.

        Perhaps I could be convinced that Adam on a one year deal makes sense. Beyond that, I don’t see the logic.

        Now, if they want him around as a “leader” or to have him retire in black and orange, or to keep people semi-interested, well those are arguments to be had over some virtual beers. 🙂 But at the end of the day, none of those are *logical* arguments — they’re *sentimental* or perhaps even monetary arguments.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 5:12 pm

      Zoey, I’m not convinced it will happen. I don’t know for certain what the sides really want. If the Orioles don’t want Jones, his wishes won’t happen. The guess here is that this will go on well into the offseason.

  8. deqalt

    September 5, 2018 at 10:53 am

    I love Adam Jones and everything he has done, but for all the reasons you mentioned with several outfielders maybe 2 years away. It’s has to be a 1 year deal. Can’t clog up positions during rebuild. These young guys will need ABs. Orioles not competing in 2019 so whatever the young guys need!

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      Deqalt, I think starting the year with Jones wouldn’t be a bad thing. If it turned out one of the young outfielders deserved playing time, well Jones would have to step aside. But, that would be a good thing.

  9. Echo

    September 5, 2018 at 11:04 am

    I would not like to see the team sign a free agent in the off season to provide “leadership”. We have that option in-house in Adam Jones and he has proven his worth time and again. Hopefully, the team will see the wisdom in resigning him

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 12:48 pm

      It will be fascinating to see what happens, Echo.

  10. Orial

    September 5, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Yes Jones should be welcomed back for various reasons–keeps the O’s relevant to casual fans during rebuild,the lack of immediate depth in minors,still decent ballplayer,AND leadership qualities. A shame about Stewart not stepping up. I guess you don’t see Hays as being ready for next opening day? One other thing(with a little snicker) –don’t ever mention Valencia,Pressley as potenrial utilities. I realize they may have to look for a few cheep FAs but please look elsewhere.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      The Orioles hope that Hays will be ready, but he had an injury-marred season at Double-A, played well at the end of the season, and needs to play well in the Arizona Fall League to make them think about changing their position on him, Orial.

  11. OrangeBird21

    September 5, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Love AJ and what he’s done with the O’s, but there’s no way he is coming back. They have basically indicated that, and some team will need a veteran CF next spring.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      OrangeBird, Jones may not be viewed as an everyday center fielder by other clubs. Duquette’s comments indicate the Orioles may be moving in another direction, but they’ll have to replace Jones, and I don’t see anyone in line to do that–just yet.

  12. Ekim

    September 5, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Rich… Even though the subject of your piece is Jones, what you’ve provided is a critique of the O’s farm system and have, quite nicely, backed up what I’ve been saying here for months… THE CUPBOARD IS BARE! The reasons are many… ownership, poor scouting of prospects, Douchette’s philosophy (dumpster diving) etc. This whole thing has become laughable… if you are a masochist. Loosing Jones after dumping all the legitimate major leaguers would be the final nail in the coffin. I’ve been an O’s fan since I moved here in 81 and had seasons tickets through some really rough years, but I see nothing in the future to make me feel hopeful. I listen to Thorny trying to find threads to hang on to and just shake my head. Even Palmer and Dempsey sound like they’ve had it. It’s so sad.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      Ekim, several of the outfield prospects have promise. They’re just not ready. One of the reasons for the makeover is to add prospects to the system, but it’s going to take a few more drafts for that.

  13. 5brooks5

    September 5, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    A two year deal, to start as the right fielder, with the hope that Hays takes over sometime next year. Then Adam becomes a great fourth outfielder who still gets plenty of playing time. I don’t see any team out there giving him a longer term deal and he is loved in B-More!

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      There are many fans who agree with you, 5brooks.

  14. willmiranda

    September 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I can’t see writing off Trumbo. He’s not a speedster who has to get back to sprinter’s form, and I think he’ll be functional by next April. Injured, he’s probably not tradable. One may prefer Jones, but that’s a different question. As for signing Jones, I think the trade deadline action showed he’s in the driver’s seat. He has a good idea of how much the O’s think he’s worth and will find out what other teams think he’s worth. Then he’ll make a choice. I may be wrong, but I don’t think there will be a bidding war, and I don’t blame the O’s if they don’t start one. At this point there aren’t too many unknowns about Jones or risks about his ceiling or floor, so I can’t see much variation in his evaluation by different teams. The decision will be his.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      Will, I’m not writing off Trumbo, but when we’re given rehab estimates, I listen. If he misses the first month of the season, that means you have to start with someone else. And, no, he’s not tradeable now and like Zach Britton, won’t be until he’s proven healthy.

      Being without Trumbo to start is even more reason to re-sign Jones.

  15. jkneps63

    September 6, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Please no more Adam Jones blowing bubbles while running after fly balls. Please no.

  16. Cmoney49

    September 7, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    I won’t renewing my season tickets if they don’t attempt to sign him. Great leader on the team and in the community.

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