Hot Take Tuesday: Adam Jones isn’t a Good Center Fielder Anymore

Adam Jones has, for almost nine full seasons, been the Orioles’ everyday center fielder when healthy. He has four Gold Glove awards to his name, three of which came in succession from 2012-2014. His propensity to blow bubbles as he chases fly balls drives some O’s fans up a wall, even those with Adam Jones bubble-blowing bobbleheads perched atop their dressers. Say that five times fast.

In 2013, Rawlings began an effort to make the Gold Glove Award more accountable for truly determining the best fielders in the game by implementing the SABR Defensive Index into the selection process. Now, in addition to considering the votes of managers and coaches across baseball, advanced defensive metrics are taken into account.

Gold Gloves don’t tell the whole story, however. While many of them are pretty accurate, some, especially pre-2013, make very little sense. Derek Jeter is a perfect example. He had a certain finesse about his defensive game that made him look a lot better than he was. In reality, Jeter was a pretty bad defender. His -246.3 (yes, negative) career DRS is probably the worst all-time for any position. Jeter won five Gold Glove awards; in those five seasons, he posted a combined -58 DRS and -21.2 UZR.

Jones presents a similar case; albeit to a less extreme level. In his four Gold Glove seasons, he posted a positive DRS twice (2009 and 2014) and a positive UZR just once (2014). I’m not sure if that says more about the Gold Glove voting process pre-2013 or about Jones’ defensive abilities, though I feel comfortable saying that Jones has been and still is an overrated defensive outfielder.

Last season, Kevin Kiermaier of the Tampa Bay Rays dethroned Mr. Jones, taking home not only the Gold Glove Award for center field, but the Platinum Glove as well. He deserved it, too, as his 42 defensive runs saved were the most all-time. Kiermaier’s brilliance means that Toronto’s Kevin Pillar, who is one of the best defensive outfielders I’ve seen in my lifetime, isn’t even the best center fielder named Kevin in his own division.

To take that argument a step further, Jones, who was once regarded as one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, is not only the worst center fielder in his division – he’s one of the worst in all of Major League Baseball.

Jones’ -7.9 UZR this season is the worst in the American League and is second worst in baseball behind only Denard Span of the San Francisco Giants. His -10 DRS bests only Tyler Naquin of the Cleveland Indians and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This argument is not based solely on metrics, however. Remember the days when Jones routinely made spectacular catches that would be shown on the highlight reels the next day? Am I wrong to say it feels like it’s been a while since we’ve seen one of those? Am I wrong in my observation that Jones looks like he’s lost a step or two?

So, what’s the solution?

I think the Orioles should consider moving Adam Jones to a corner outfield spot where he would have less ground to cover and where his declining arm could be better utilized. Obviously, the O’s have nobody right now who would be an upgrade in center field, which means one would have to be acquired elsewhere. Two intriguing options are Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler, both of whom the Orioles considered this past offseason.

Regardless of what happens, Jones will remain the heart and soul of the Orioles. His presence in the clubhouse and infectious personality mean more to this team than those nerdy numbers I listed above.

I still wouldn’t mind seeing him make the transition to left field next season.

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About Ryan Blake

Ryan joined the Eutaw Street Report crew for the site's launch in 2013 having spent the 2012 season as a member of the Orioles' tarp crew. Before then, he had never really considered writing, but has grown to enjoy sharing his opinions and is now ESR's "Hot Take" artist. In...more

4 Cheers on “Hot Take Tuesday: Adam Jones isn’t a Good Center Fielder Anymore

  1. WDW on said:

    Realistically, the Gold Glove Award is mostly a joke — Jonesy hasn’t ever been the best center fielder in baseball, not by a long shot. This has been the correct analysis for years, but from what I understand, Jonesy is vocal in his resistance to moving out of center field. His arm is more than good enough to handle right field duties for the next few years, and he profiles beautifully as a right fielder in Camden Yards. With Kim solidifying himself as something of an everyday left fielder (Rickard to spell him against tough lefties) and with Trumbo better-suited to platooning in the corner outfield positions and at first base, while taking most of the plate appearances at DH (that is, of course, if he stays with the club on an extension or accepts a QO — which probably is less likely than the O’s retaining Pedro Alvarez for DH duties), Jonesy in right field makes the most sense. Convincing him to move, however, is another thing altogether — he’s a great guy and the face of the franchise, but again, he’s been vocal whenever the subject of him transitioning to a corner position has been broached. It would take kid gloves and a strong effort from Buck behind the scenes to make it happen. Meanwhile, Fowler is looking like a 4y/$60-70mm contract while Cespedes figures to be looking at 5+ years at $25mm/year (and is showing a very poor UZR this year, albeit for the first time in his career — but a UZR/150 worse than Jonesy’s); for that reason, Cespedes doesn’t make much sense as a center fielder, and Fowler is far and away the best choice if he’ll come here on a 3-4 year deal.

  2. jannpls on said:

    Glad that Ryan is a successful sports writer because he is a rotten judge of talent. Another writer that is obsessed with metrics, numbers, and 3 letter acronyms. I will take Jones in CF any day of the week.

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