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May 25, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Adam Jones Gets a Nest Egg

by R.J. Anderson

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Re-signed CF-R Adam Jones to a six-year contract extension worth $85 million. [5/25]

Back when Jones used to be in the Mariners organization, he would draw comparisons to Mike Cameron. Jones had power potential in his bat, good speed thanks to a long stride, and a cannon arm left over from his days as a shortstop. (Not to mention that teams wanted to draft Jones as a pitcher.) You could dream on those tools and see a player who would one day smash 20 home runs, swipe 20 bases, and win a Gold Glove award on a seasonal basis. Jones isn’t a 20/20 guy but he isn’t Cameron, either. That isn’t meant to disrespect Cameron, a great player, but rather to introduce this factoid: according to Baseball-Reference, Cameron made about $76 million during his playing days. Jones will make $85 million before he turns 33.

Jones is in the midst of a banner year offensively. Hitting for average and above-average power is nothing new to Jones, but the amount of power production has changed. Whereas in the past about one-third of Jones’ hits went for extra bases, more than 40 percent are this season. The higher damage-to-hit ratio has yet to come with a substantial boost in walks, and Jones’ unwillingness to take a free pass dings his value some. It’s a blemish that he makes up for by being a good baserunner, especially during the run of play. Since 2009, Jones has taken the extra base 50 percent of the time.

While it’s easy to call Jones an offensive asset, his defensive value is harder to grasp. Most defensive metrics label Jones a liability in center field despite his long stride and cannon arm. FRAA is unlike most defensive metrics and it happens to see Jones as the best center fielder in baseball over the past three seasons.  Factor in Jones’ ability to avoid the disabled list since 2009 and he looks like a capable and durable hitter, fielder, and baserunner with room to grow. Unsurprisingly, Jones ranks as the American League’s best center fielder when judged by Wins Above Replacement Player accumulated over recent seasons:

Player

2009-2012 WARP

Matt Kemp

19

Adam Jones

13

Curtis Granderson

12

Andrew McCutchen

12

Shane Victorino

11

Jacoby Ellsbury

11

Angel Pagan

10

Michael Bourn

9

Torii Hunter

9

B.J. Upton

8

The name above Jones, Matt Kemp, comes in handy when trying to evaluate whether the Orioles paid too much. Kemp is the better player, of course, and is paid like it by an eight-year deal worth $160 million. Jones, who wouldn’t have qualified for free agency until after the 2013 season, receives about $6 million less per season, on a shorter contract.

It’ll be interesting to see how this deal affects the upcoming free-agent class. Upcoming center field markets will be plush with names on the list: Bourn, Pagan, Upton, and Victorino all qualify after 2012. Granderson will become a free agent after next season. Dan Duquette didn’t let the market dictate his price. And, if he read Jones’ improvements and the market correctly, he might have saved some money by acting now rather than later.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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