One of this decade’s most productive outfielders, Adam Jones finally earned the opportunity to test free agency for the first time. Like many other 30-somethings, his experience with it was drawn out and frustrating, with the Diamondbacks ultimately inking him to a $3 million deal for this upcoming season (Jones earned $17.3 million in 2018 with the Orioles).
Lots to unpack here.
First off, it’s unclear what the sequence of events was. Were the Marlins still entertaining Jones as a fit until the very end? Former Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis had the scoop about his pending deal, but they are known to be friends off the field—it’s not like D-Train was involved with negotiating on the club’s behalf. Nightengale clarifies that the Marlins never made a formal offer. Also, president of baseball operations Michael Hill indicated several weeks ago that they had no interest in additional signings.
Perhaps Miami viewed Jones as an alternative to Curtis Granderson. They were able to get Granderson last month on a “we want you for a significant MLB role, but don’t have the roster spot right now” minor league deal. He will earn a $1.75 million salary in 2019, facing predominantly right-handed pitching and manning the corner outfield spots (maxes out at $2 million with incentives).
Meanwhile, “it was either play in the major leagues or stay home” from Jones’ perspective. The distinction between minor league and major league deal was critical to his decision.
Jones performed poorly last summer (.281/.313/.419, 98 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR in 613 PA), but provides Granderson-like leadership and marketability with significantly more upside. He is four-and-a-half years younger and capable of playing center field in emergency situations. The Dbacks tacked on plate appearance-based incentives that allow the former All-Star to collect up to $5 million total this season.
Besides Granderson, the Marlins will carry Lewis Brinson on their Opening Day roster, plus at least two of the following outfield options: Garrett Cooper, Austin Dean, Gabriel Guerrero, Rosell Herrera, Peter O’Brien and Harold Ramírez.
The Marlins want to balance controllable potential building blocks with respected veterans (that the front office will consider trading midseason to recoup prospects). But there’s a case to be made that their roster heading into the regular season leans too much on the former, leaving them vulnerable to be embarrassed in a hyper-competitive NL East.