While a timeline isn’t yet known, this injury does not bode well for Jones’s potential trade status this summer. Elbow problems limited the 32-year-old to 11 appearances last year and have perhaps contributed to his struggles thus far in 2018.
It had seemed that Jones may be a target for contenders, particularly given that he has been generating swinging strikes at about at 14% clip again in the early going. He had recorded 27 strikeouts but also 14 walks in his 24 2/3 innings this year. Though he is throwing about as hard as ever, averaging just under 98 mph with his fastball, Jones was also throwing first-pitch strikes at a lower rate than ever before (54.5%).
That mixed bag did not prevent Jones from earning mention along with some other controllable, high-K relief arms in our recent ranking of the top fifty trade deadline chips. With relatively few appealing rental arms likely to be available, it stands to reason that some contenders will go looking at bullpen pieces that can be kept for future seasons.
In Jones’s case, a few weeks of success could still turn him into an intriguing asset. He has been dominant in the past, is throwing hard and getting whiffs now, and comes with a great contract situation. His deal includes cheap club options for the next three years to come — the league minimum next year and just $8MM total for the ensuing two campaigns, with an alternative, one-time buyout price of only $1.25MM. (Escalators could boost those values, but only if Jones is healthy and pitching well enough to finish games.)
A potentially analogous situation arose last year with Sean Doolittle. Though he never showed the walk issues that Jones has, Doolittle did have a similar combination of an impressive track record and concerning injury history. While he had missed time in 2017, Doolittle was healthy at the trade deadline and ended up being dealt. In his case, he returned in mid-June, so Jones will have less time to reestablish himself — if he’s able to make it back before the end of July at all. The odds of that coming to pass still aren’t clear. Long-term health will remain the priority, in any event, particularly since the White Sox still have a lengthy term over which to achieve value on the contract.