The Orioles top trade target this offseason is Adam Jones and there have been rumors all winter involving the Orioles' willingness to move him. The fact is, it would take a monster haul to pry Jones away from Dan Duquette, who has praised Jones' potential to carry this team into the future.
Adam Jones is on the verge of stardom. At 26 years old, Jones has still not reached his prime and it could be coming very soon. Jones set career highs in home runs, RBI, stolen bases and slugging percentage in 2011, all while playing some of the best defense of his career. Jones has already been an All-Star and won a Gold Glove in his short career with the Orioles.
Entering 2012, Jones ranks among the top center fielders in all baseball. With more patience at the plate, he could become an elite player in the league. That's why it would take such a large haul to snag this budding star.
Here are five potential packages that could land Adam Jones.
Note: All of these packages are pure speculation. Some are based on fact, but are mostly of my own mind. None of them are meant to reflect the true value Adam Jones. The Orioles are rumored to being asking for a monster haul, so the deals reflect that sentiment.
Orioles Receive: Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado and Julio Teheran
The Braves have shown clear interest in Jones this offseason and there have been false reports all winter that the Orioles may be close to a deal. While not true, most of the reports have mentioned that the Orioles want Jurrjens, Prado and at least one of Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com even went as far as to say that the Orioles were asking for two.
Jurrjens is an ace right now. He dominated the first half of 2011, even destroying the Orioles in his wake, but injuries and inconsistency plagued his second half. He still finished the year with a 2.96 ERA and a 13-6 record. Injuries are a big concern though, as Jurrjens has only started 20 and 23 games in the last two seasons.
Martin Prado is a terrific young utility player that could play left field, second base or third base for the Orioles. He had a down year in 2011, but recorded over .300 average in each of the last three seasons (albeit only a full-time player in 2009).
Julio Teheran is the Braves' top pitching prospect. He was ranked fourth on Jonathan Mayo's recent list of the top 100 prospects for MLB.com and is an ace in the making. Teheran, who just turned 21 on Friday, dominated Triple-A, to the tune of a 2.55 ERA and a 15-3 record. He struggled when called up to the majors, but clearly still has time to develop. Regardless, his stuff will make him a force in the near future.
Orioles Receive: Shelby Miller, Jon Jay and Matt Adams
The Cardinals aren't a clear suitor for Jones, but they have the prospects to get it done and an outfield that includes Jones, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran has me thinking it could be a good idea.
Shelby Miller is the prize of the package. Miller spent 2011 between Single-A and Double-A and dominated, with an 11-6 record and 2.77 ERA. What's better is that he struck out 170 batters in just 139.2 innings. That's 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He has the talent to overtake Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter as the No. 1 starter in a couple years.
Jon Jay is the Cardinals' current center fielder and while he is no Adam Jones, he is still a solid outfielder. He won't hit for power like Jones, but he has a good eye at the plate and could be a solid leadoff man. His biggest pro over Jones is his much higher OBP.
Matt Adams was a one-man wrecking crew in 2011. Spending the entire season at Double-A Springfield, Adams hit 32 home runs in just 115 games. His OPS was a terrific .923 and it was not just from power because he had a .357 OBP. Adams' defense needs work, but he could give the Orioles a first baseman that could hit with the rest of the division.
Orioles Receive: Lorenzo Cain, Mike Montgomery and John Lamb
Dayton Moore once mentioned Adam Jones as the prototype of a center fielder that he would want. He was saying that Lorenzo Cain could be that player, but he may like Jones better for being a guy that is ready now.
Lorenzo Cain right now reminds me of Adam Jones when the Orioles first got him from Seattle. He is a terrific athlete that tore up the Pacific Coast League and is on the verge of the majors. One difference is that Jones is only eight months older than Cain and has already played four full major league seasons. That being said, Cain has impressed in small sample sizes in the majors between the Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals.
Mike Montgomery is one of a few top ranked pitching prospects for the Royals, although he struggled in 2011. At Triple-A Omaha, Montgomery went 5-11 with a 5.32 ERA, which doesn't scream top pitcher. His struggles come from command issues that can easily be ironed out as he is still only 22. Stuff-wise, Montgomery is one of the best lefties in the minors.
John Lamb is also a top ranked left-handed starter in the minors for the Royals. Lamb was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2011, which cut his season short after just eight starts, but he is still projected to be a top starter. The risk is fairly high considering the surgery, but tons of players have come back strong from it, so Lamb can too.
Orioles Receive: Matt Purke, Sammy Solis, Steve Lombardozzi and Brian Goodwin
The Nationals have been clear about their search for a new center fielder. They targeted B.J. Upton and Denard Span in the past, but Jones could be a fit too. They depleted the organization of a lot of top prospects in the Gio Gonzalez trade, so they would likely be bled dry in a Jones deal.
Matt Purke was one of the Nationals' top picks in the 2011 draft and he has great potential, but injuries have held him back and they could continue into the future.
Sammy Solis had a great year in the low minors for the Nationals and could also be a terrific pitcher, but he has an elbow injury that impedes his immediate future.
Steve Lombardozzi, who is now injured, got a cup of coffee with the Nationals in September and was solid with the glove, but struggled to hit. In the minors, he hit .309 with a .360 OBP, which is serviceable considering he is a middle infielder. A positive is that he could be the heir apparent to Brian Roberts at second or take short if Manny Machado grows out of the position.
Brian Goodwin, like Purke, was drafted this year and has yet to play in the minors, but is projected to be a five-tool outfielder. He has a high ceiling, but the time value could make Jones more attractive to the Nats.
I don't believe for a second that the Orioles or Nationals would make this deal, but this is what it would take. The Orioles would do it if they felt good on the health of the players.
Orioles Receive: Leonys Martin, Martin Perez and Mike Olt
Like the situation with the Cardinals, this is a team with the players to pull off the deal, not the need at the position. That said, this could legitimately allow Hamilton to play in left field full-time and the team of Hamilton, Jones and Cruz would be unstoppable. Adding Jones would make the Rangers' lineup unreal and they would be my favorite to win the World Series hands down.
Leonys Martin signed with the Rangers in May of 2011 after defecting from Cuba and flew through the minors. Martin made his major league debut in September, but never got a real chance to play. Martin, who will be 24 on Opening Day, will be a great player because of his speed and defense. His bat may develop well, but it's too early to say.
Martin Perez has seemed to be on top prospect lists for the past few years now and it surprised me to see that he's only going to turn 21 on April 4. He has the fastball and changeup to be a monster in the majors some day and it could be very soon. Perez clearly needs more seasoning, as he had a 6.43 ERA in 10 starts at Triple-A this year, but he'll figure it out and be a star in the next couple of years.
Mike Olt's minor league numbers are really good, but don't jump out as a terrific star. That said, his Arizona Fall League numbers were unreal. In 27 games in the fall league, Olt hit 13 home runs and had 43 RBI. He had a sick 1.197 OPS. Olt is a solid defender, but has Adrian Beltre ahead of him in Texas, so he may have to switch teams or positions.