So, the Indians began the offseason by not re-signing long-time Indian, and fan favorite, Michael Brantley to an otherwise affordable contract. Since then, the Indians have struggled to find consistent offensive production from their outfield.
Remember those Adam Jones-to-Indians rumors before he ultimately signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks? Well, Jones would be the perfect player to step in and give a below-average offense a boost.
Including Leonys Martin being designated for assignment and Oscar Mercado’s strong rookie upstart, outfielders are still hitting a combined .236/.300/.398 on the season. Martin’s .199 average contributed to a group-low .206 average from center fielders by the time of his departure.
So, why would Jones be the best replacement?
For starters, Jones is on an expiring one-year contract for only $3 million, making his contract small enough that if a contender wanted to add his services, the money combined with his age shouldn’t garner too much in return. Jones, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, would also be a great veteran mentor to further aid Mercado, Tyler Naquin and others while also producing on the field, something Carlos Gonzalez did not have adequate time to do.
Since Mercado seems to be the everyday center fielder since Martin’s departure, Jones, who already has transitioned to right field, will make a nice platoon with the left-handed-hitting Naquin. While Jones’ .264 batting average is modest at best, it is still an upgrade over the .236 average Indians outfielders have as a group.
At the end of May, Jones was hitting .280 on the season and although he hit .224 in the month of June, his average is still higher than Indians right fielders (.252). Combined, Indians’ right fielders have comparable numbers (.252/.313/.446, 13 HR, 44 RBI) to Jones (.264/.315/.448, 13 HR, 43 RBI), so the defense will be the best return on investment if such a deal were to take place.
If defense is your concern for the 33-year-old, Jones carries a .972 fielding percentage, good enough to place him tied for fourth among qualified outfielders in the American League and a range factor of 1.94 placing him sixth among qualified outfielders. No other Indians outfielder would be qualified as of July 2.