The Orioles and Indians have held discussions on a number of players, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link), who calls a trade of Adam Jones to Cleveland a “viable” possibility. The Indians, Morosi notes, have been in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfield bat.
Of course, any discussion of Jones as a trade candidate should begin with the fact that he’s spent the past 11 seasons with the Orioles and, as such, has full 10-and-5 rights that allow him to veto any trade scenario. Jones’ future is entirely in his own hands, and late last month, he spoke with the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli about that unfamiliar situation. To this point, there’s been no indication that Jones will approve a trade, though the virtually inevitable reality that the last-place Orioles will trade away teammates Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach (among others, potentially) could motivate Jones to approve a trade sending him to a contending club.
The Indians certainly fit that bill, as they lead the Twins in the American League Central by 7.5 games with the All-Star break looming. Cleveland has already lost Lonnie Chisenhall for up to 10 weeks, and Bradley Zimmer has struggled tremendously at the MLB level so far in 2018. The team has also received a woeful lack of production from right-handed-hitting outfield options Brandon Guyer and Rajai Davis.
All of that said, there’s also cause to wonder just how much of an upgrade Jones might be — especially relative to his cost. The 32-year-old has plenty of name value after making five All-Star teams earlier in his career, but he hasn’t even produced at a league-average rate himself in 2018. While Jones would unequivocally be an upgrade over Guyer and Davis, he’s sitting on a flat .300 on-base percentage and is slashing .275/.300/.422 overall (99 OPS+, 95 wRC+).
From a defensive standpoint, Jones has remained in center field for the Orioles for years despite the fact that nearly any defensive metric in existence paints him as a dismal performer there. Jones rated as a premium defender in center earlier in his career, but he’s been among the worst in the league there this season by measure of Defensive Runs Saved (-16), Ultimate Zone Rating (-10) and Outs Above Average (-8).
Add in the fact that Jones is still owed about $7.22MM of this season’s $17MM salary through season’s end, and it’s worth questioning just how much any club would be willing to surrender in order to rent him for his final couple of months before free agency. Certainly, the Orioles could help their cause by offering to pay down some of Jones’ salary, though it’s not clear if they’d be willing to do so. That’d likely be a particularly enticing offer for the Indians, though, as they entered the 2018 season with a franchise-record payroll of roughly $136MM, and adding Jones at his current price point would carry them into completely unprecedented territory in terms player payroll.