The free agent options are dwindling for the Braves. It seems that the only options left on the market to fill their outfield vacancy are Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones. Harper is likely to price himself out of the Braves’ budget. Pollock may prove to be too expensive as well, and even if the Braves did decide to dish out the money, his injury history makes him a potential liability if signed to a high-dollar contract. That leaves former Orioles Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. Of course, they could always go the trade route, but these two seem to be the best options they have if they plan to sign a free agent.
We all know what we would be getting in Markakis regardless of his second-half struggles, and it may make sense to bring him back for one more year. However, I am pretty indifferent on who the Braves could sign between Jones and Markakis. I think both still have a bit left in the tank on a short-term deal.
Many people have been so quick to give up on Jones as he ages. Sure, he is not the same guy he used to be manning centerfield. But he would be moved to a corner outfield spot that would be better suited for him at this stage of his career.
Jones is not approaching his 40’s. He is still 33 years old, has been to 5 All-Star games and may have a couple of years left of quality baseball remaining. And frankly, while he had a down year, his numbers and age are still along the same lines as Andrew McCutchen and Michael Brantley, who received contracts that will likely dwarf the contract figure Jones fetches.
It was just a year and a half ago Jones was making plays like this for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic:
A true American hero.
It’s also worth pointing out just how bad the Orioles were last season. You don’t lose that many games with that much talent unless there is some type of chemistry or culture issue. There were a plethora of talented vets that had down years for the Orioles, with Manny Machado being the only exception. This list includes Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and a historically bad year for Chris Davis. We saw guys like Brad Brach and Kevin Gausman come over to Atlanta and benefit from a change of scenery immediately.
Sure, Jones is declining. But in a corner outfield spot with a change of scenery, I think he could be a value at the projected $8 million price tag he could receive on a short-term deal. This would also allow the Braves to sign a high-profile reliever with the estimated $20 million many believe they have to spend.
Personally, I think that making a move for an ace can wait. The Braves already have a plethora of arms at their disposal and could start the season tomorrow with a fine rotation. The best move may be to wait things out and make that move at the trade deadline if they feel it is needed.
Jones is hitting the free agency market for the first time in his career. He is a great person off the field and will always be a fan favorite in Baltimore. His veteran presence could be instrumental in the success of this team going forward. Like Markakis, he has been a model of consistency for years, and his numbers, frankly, are more impressive:
People who were critical of the Josh Donaldson contract and are bullish on the likes of Jones are probably the same types of fans that gave up on Justin Verlander way too early a couple of years ago. Jones is a great bounce-back candidate and is a safe option, and could be had at a reasonable price-tag.
Oh yea, and we may be a bit biased since he joined in our Markakis love affair last season:
The biggest reservation on Jones’ end would be having to change his number… something tells me the Braves are not going to let another “Jones” wear the number 10.
All jokes aside, if the Braves are going to go with an external free agency option, Jones is the most realistic, and there is no doubt he could help this team.