Age: August 1, 1985 (33)
Traditional Stats: .281/.313/.419, 35 2B, 15 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB, CS
Advanced Stats: 0.2 bWAR, 0.5 fWAR, 102 OPS+, 98 wRC+
Defensive Stats: CF (906.2 innings, -18 DRS, -10.5 UZR), RF (272.2 innings, -6 DRS, -1.8 UZR), LF (13.0 innings, -1 DRS, 0.3 UZR)
After 10 years as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, Jones finds himself a free agent. With the Orioles in a full rebuild, it seems his time in Baltimore is over. He leaves the franchise as their all-time leader in games played in center He’s in the Top 10 of many Orioles all-time categories including Offensive WAR (37.1), games (1,613), runs (875), hits (1,781), doubles (305), homers (263), and RBI (866). That is a major accomplishment when you consider the Orioles franchise includes all-time greats like Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, and Brooks Robinson.
However, Jones is no longer that type of player. He hasn’t been in quite a few years. His last All-Star appearance was 2015. His last Gold Glove was 2015, and his only Silver Slugger was the previous season. With him being this far removed from being an All-Star and his coming off a career-worst season, the question is what does he have left?
Looking at the intangibles first, Jones is a leader with a great clubhouse presence. With the Orioles looking towards the future, he agreed to switch from center field to a corner outfield position so the team could get playing time for prospect Cedric Mullins. He plays hard, sets an example, and he stays on the field. For a team with a lot of young talent, Jones is the exact type of player you want setting an example and teaching them how to be a Major League player.
Much like Curtis Granderson, Jones is also a presence in the Baltimore community. He is not only involved in baseball’s RBI program, but he is also involved with the Boys & Girls Club. Moreover, he has supported the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which has helped teens attend college.
As seen in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Jones still has a sense of the moment. In games which mattered, we saw him rob his Orioles teammate Manny Machado of a home run, which would help the U.S. advance in the tournament. In that tournament, even with him hitting .243, he had a tremendous impact at the plate getting big hit after big hit.
The question for any team looking to acquire him is whether the clubhouse impact and the big moments are enough with his current level of production. On the positive side, Jones may still have something in the tank. After a terrible April, he did hit .292/.329/.421 with a 104 wRC+ with a career-best strikeout rate. On the negative side, he is a player definitely in decline, and judging from his defensive numbers, there is a question if he can play the outfield anymore, especially with Baseball Savant ranking him 337th in the Majors in sprint speed.
Overall, Jones has value for teams looking to contend, but the question remains what role he can and should play for those teams.
This past offseason saw the 37-year-old Granderson and the 32-year-old Carlos Gonzalez accept one-year deals for $5 million. The 31-year-old Austin Jackson accepted a two year deal for $3 million annually. Based upon his declining production, Jones should expect to accept a one-year deal in that $3-$5 million range. The challenge for him in getting it is his having to compete with the aforementioned players who will also be free agents.
In no way should Jones be the Mets Plan A. This team is in need of a right-handed bat, but Jones is not the difference maker they are hoping to obtain this offseason. If the team is really interested in getting that bat, they need to be doing all they can do to obtain players like Machado. That said, if the team does expend all of their resources for that one big piece, Jones could well serve as a fine complementary piece in this offseason.
If the Mets are comfortable with Brandon Nimmo in center, Jones could be the clubhouse guy which could help young players like Amed Rosario reach his full potential. However, this only makes sense if the Mets address their other needs this offseason because Jones is not a solution to anything.