Zach Britton shared a heartfelt goodbye with Baltimore Orioles fans on Twitter after being traded to the New York Yankees on Monday. In light of everything Adam Jones has meant to the Orioles since his arrival at Camden Yards, he might have to take out a special section in the Baltimore Sun.
Now that Manny Machado and Britton have moved on, the Orioles are turning their attention to their final trade pieces to help expedite a rebuild. Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach are all candidates to be moved by Tuesday. But no single player has a bigger impact on the hearts and minds of Orioles' fans than Jones, who has been a staple in the lineup and a pillar in the community since coming to Baltimore from Seattle by trade in 2008.
One source familiar with the discussions said the odds are "55-45" that Jones changes teams between now and Tuesday's deadline. Here are some relevant developments and other factors to consider as Baltimore general manager Dan Duquette tries to navigate the steps to making it a reality:
Cleveland's center fielders rank 29th in the majors with a .567 OPS, and right field hasn't been much better. After giving up top prospect Francisco Mejia to acquire Brad Hand and Adam Cimber and make a run at the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, the Indians are motivated to add an outfielder and address their big remaining weak spot.
In Philadelphia, executives Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak, Ned Rice and Joe Jordan all know Jones from their time in Baltimore and are familiar with the attributes that he would bring to a young team in a pennant race. The Phillies fell short on Machado and Britton, but are considering Jones as a deadline pickup.
Jones would most likely move to right field for either club. He ranks 34th among MLB center fielders with a minus-15 defensive runs saved this season. But the Indians' lack of a frontline center fielder and Odubel Herrera's sometimes indifferent defense at the position in Philadelphia leave open the possibility of some playing time in center for Jones in both places.
-- Jones' 10-and-5 service-time rights give him considerable leverage, and some observers think he might want an extension -- or at least an assurance that he's part of the plan -- rather than just sign off on a trade and be a two-month rental. Would a one-year extension suffice, or would he expect something more? Only he knows for sure.
-- The Orioles have yet to approach Jones about waiving his 10-and-5 rights to facilitate a trade, according to two sources. But recent history shows that no-trade protection can easily blow up deals at the deadline. Two years ago, Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy blocked a trade to Cleveland in late July over concerns about his future role with the Indians. The earlier the Orioles zero in on a trade partner and get Jones on board, the better.
-- There are two schools of thought making the rounds about Jones' status for 2019 and beyond.
Scenario No. 1: The Orioles had an opportunity to extend Jones and let things drag on without a resolution, and now it's time for a change. Jones wants a ring, and it's difficult to see him babysitting young players on 90-loss teams in Baltimore over the next several years. Regardless of what happens at the deadline, his run in Baltimore is probably nearing an end.
Scenario No. 2: Jones is such a competitor and a professional, he would be the ideal mentor for the next wave of young players at Camden Yards. He already ranks fifth in Orioles history with 258 home runs and is among the top 10 in several other categories, and a few more seasons in Baltimore would embellish his achievements and cement his place as a franchise great. If the price is right, the Orioles could be motivated to keep him around a while longer.
Nez Balelo, Jones' agent, didn't close the door on either scenario in a text message to ESPN.com Thursday.
"Adam is a true professional, and regardless if he is playing on a first-place team or a last-place team, he shows up ready to play,'' Balelo said. "Because of Adam's passion for the game and desire to compete along with a DNA to win, he is going to be a huge factor for a team moving forward.''
Jones has a .155/.206/.207 slash line in 63 postseason plate appearances, so his small-sample-size October numbers aren't pretty. But he was a driving force behind Team USA's win in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and scouts think he could be reinvigorated by a move to a contending club. The moment Jones walks in the clubhouse door, he's going to have an impact.
"I think he would bring some nice value to a contending team,'' said a scout. "On a club with a good mix of outfielders, he can still play some center field. He's going to hit most lefties well, and he'll still do damage against bad pitching and guys who make mistakes. He's not the impact, star player he once was, but he still brings a lot to the table.''
The only question now is: Whose table?