It's been a week since the trade deadline passed and while the Orioles sent Koji Uehara and Derrek Lee away, a more intriguing name was sought after by the top two teams in the National League.
According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies called Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail to try to make a deal for star center fielder Adam Jones. MacPhail quickly shut down the talks because he had no interest in dealing Jones, but it got me thinking about what a trade of that magnitude could have brought to the Orioles.
The Phillies and Braves ended up raiding the Houston Astros for Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, giving up some pretty good talent in exchange. That's talent that the Orioles could have potentially had at the deadline in exchange for the final two and a half years of control of Adam Jones.
The Phillies managed to obtain a 28-year-old five-tool right fielder that had become a star in Houston, but gave up a lot in return. Philadelphia lost their top pitching prospect, Jarred Cosart, and top hitting prospect, Jonathan Singleton. Both were at Single-A Clearwater, but are very young (Cosart is 21 and Singleton is 19) and very highly touted. The Astros also got Double-A reliever Josh Zeid, who has good potential, but is only a bullpen piece.
Hunter Pence compares pretty well with Adam Jones this season, although the career numbers favor Pence heavily. Their current slugging percentages are almost identical, but Pence has a much higher OBP. Pence has a batting average of .314 compared to just .293 for Jones. Both players struggle with patience and strike out too much with not enough walks. They also are both have two more years of arbitration after this season.
The advantages for Jones over Pence are intriguing. Jones is a very good center fielder with range and a terrific arm, while Pence is limited to right field. Jones also has a lot more power and is still just getting better as he just set a career high in home runs with 20 this year. Jones is also two years younger than Pence and may be just entering his prime.
Judging all of the factors, I think that the Orioles could get a similar package to what the Astros got for Pence. In that case, I would have taken it and been open to the possibility of delaying the rebuilding process. Cosart and Singleton are cornerstone players that are poised to develop into big stars. Cosart and Dylan Bundy combined with Singleton and Manny Machado would give the Orioles an incredible crop of talent that could arrive all at once.
The Braves went a different way in their quest for an athletic outfield addition. The Braves traded Major League-ready center fielder Jordan Schafer, Double-A starters Brett Oberholtzer and Paul Clemens and Triple-A reliever Juan Abreu. The return was just alright for the Astros, but would not have been enough for Jones.
Jones is a much better value than Michael Bourn. Bourn will be a free agent after the 2012 season, which is entirely different in terms of future value. Bourn is also going to be 29 in December, while Jones just turned 26 on Aug. 1.
The big difference comes in slugging percentage. Bourn is a top-of-the-order hitter because of speed (MLB leader in steals) and OBP. Jones is a power hitter who can hit anywhere from second to sixth in the lineup. The value is much greater for Jones, so the haul would have to match.
What should the Orioles have done?
This is just pure speculation, but I think any deal the Braves proposed to the Orioles would have to start with either Julio Teheran or Mike Minor. After that, Brett Oberholtzer and Jordan Schafer would likely also be included. If they could also get Paul Clemens, I would consider it a win for the O's. I'm not sure I would take it, but I would at least consider it.
Overall, I think that the Phillies could have been a very interesting trade partner for the Orioles because of the depth of their farm system. They have quality prospects that could end up being incredible. If I were trading Jones to the Braves, I would want at least one of Minor and Teheran and one out of Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino and Freddie Freeman. The Braves would probably never do that, so I couldn't see a deal working out.
I respect Andy MacPhail for making the decision to keep Jones. He tried to sign him to an extension before this season and will likely try again after this season, so I like the idea. Jones is a big bat for the Orioles and is just entering his prime, so they may be able to get more for Jones in the future or keep him as a piece for their own future.
I would have at least fielded calls and taken offers, but MacPhail's approach shows a loyalty to the young star that is respectable in this day and age. Nick Markakis got a big extension to stay in Baltimore a couple of years ago and Jones may be the next to stick around into his free agency years.