First of all, perspective. It is a one-year deal, for $3 million plus incentives, in a season where the D-backs are likely not to be competing, and which doesn’t block any outfield prospects in a meaningful way [Sorry, Socrates: nobody who is older than Bryce Harper gets to be considered a prospect]. And judging by some of the reactions, you’d think we’d inked him to a Harper-sized contract. But here are the Diamondbacks next season who will be earning more than Jones’s $3 million:
- Zack Greinke
- Yasmany Tomas
- David Peralta
- Eduardo Escobar
- Robbie Ray
- Taijuan Walker
- Jake Lamb
- Alex Avila
- Steven Souza Jr.
- Jarrod Dyson
- Wilmer Flores
- Nick Ahmed
- Greg Holland
At the start of the winter, MLB Trade Rumors pegged Jones to get EIGHT million dollars this year. He won’t make anything near that, even in the (presumably unlikely) event he hits all his incentives. Now, it has obviously been a strange kind of winter - one that still sees Craig Kimbrel unemployed, for example. But we’re still likely talking around the cost of a middle reliever. It’s loose change in payroll terms.
I do agree, that the worth of this depends on how he’s used. It certainly doesn’t appear he is being ticketed as an everyday center fielder. That would fit in with Mike Hazen’s philosophy of positional flexibility, where players are valued for their ability to handle more than one spot on the field. See also, for example, Wilmer Flores, or the changes of position this year for Jake Lamb and Ketel Marte. Adding Jones. In the case of Jones, Hazen explicitly said, “I think he’s going to play all three outfield spots for us.” In this particular case he offers a right-handed option to an outfield that only really had Steven Souza in that role. Thus, he can give David Peralta a rest against left-handed pitchers.
What’s going to be interesting, and remains largely unknown, is to see what this means for the “Ketel Marte in CF” experiment. I think this is probably still going to be a thing, but in the event it goes “Tomas at 3B”-shaped, the team will have an alternative option. How credible that alternative option ends up being, is subject to discussion. “We’re aware of what the defensive metrics say,” Hazen said, which is interesting. He went on, “We talked to Adam about it quite a bit, talked through how it would work positioning and things like that.” That suggests the team either do not believe the metrics paint an accurate picture (we have seen cases where shifts skew them), or the issue can be corrected.
Socrates Brito. Out of options, it seems to many that the writing may well be on the wall for Brito, in terms of his time with the Diamondbacks. That would especially the case if Jarrod Dyson is as healthy as the team has claimed - though Dyson’s ongoing absence from Cactus League play does throw that into question. Of course, those claims of him being back, any day now, could have been to avoid strengthening Jones’s hand in negotiations. If the team apparently “needed” another outfielder, his asking price could have gone up. We saw the team do something similar last season, trading for Eduardo Escobar, before the news came out that Lamb was injured.
Doing the math, there will likely be five bench spots. Two backup catchers and Jones seem to have the inside track on three of those spots. Presuming a utility infielder will get one of the remaining two, it probably comes down to Dyson, Brito or Christian Walker for that last spot. Dyson is guaranteed money; the other two aren’t. But it would not surprise me at all if the season starts with Dyson on the disabled list. Indeed, the very signing of Jones, another experienced center fielder, does tend to suggest Dyson’s health may not be what it’s cracked up as. /adjusts tin-foil hat.
Wilmer Flores. However, there is an alternative scenario, in which Flores occupies the role of utility man, with Marte returning to second. In which case there could be room for both Dyson and Brito as outfielders (though one and Walker feels more likely). Certainly, the news of Jones’s signing is probably going to cut into Flores’s outfield appearances at least somewhat. The team is going to want to get Ketel’s bat into the line-up as often as possible, so when he isn’t in the outfield, the most likely spot is the one which was looking to be occupied by Flores. But even in the infield, we have a plethora of potential combinations, with just about everyone (bar, I suspect, Nick Ahmed) capable of playing multiple spots.
It’s all rather dizzying, and the addition of Jones has only made things murkier, rather than clearer. There’s no doubt Hazen and crew have a plan in place; they won’t just have found three million dollars down the back of Ken Kendrick’s sofa, and rushed out to spend it on the first free-agent they meet with a “Work wanted” sign. If past history is any indication, they’re going to keep that plan under their hats until its execution in the days and weeks after Opening Day. We’ll see then what it is, and can begin to assess whether or not it’s going to work.
The signing of Adam Jones was...
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