If the Chicago Cubs move one or more of their young outfielders this winter, could a veteran piece like Adam Jones be a good target in free agency?
The Chicago Cubs suffered a complete offensive collapse down the stretch last season. After the All-Star Break, Joe Maddon‘s club ranked tenth in the National League with a .705 team OPS – down from a league-leading .771 mark in the first half.
So, even as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer continue to insist the fixes for the offense are already on the roster, you have to wonder if we’ll see some guys moved this offseason. If the Cubs, for instance, decided to part ways with an Ian Happ or Albert Almora-type piece this winter, could the team add a veteran presence to the mix?
A veteran could help balance out this young team
Chicago has a history of leaning on the stability of experience in recent years. As Tony Andracki of NBC Sports Chicago pointed out in his piece, veterans have been key parts of the team’s winning since 2015.
Even with their own guys and all the first-round picks on the roster, the Cubs still felt the need to trade for Daniel Murphy in August and wound up playing him almost every day down the stretch because of how important they felt his bat/approach was to the lineup. In 2017, Jon Jay provided a lift and in 2016, it was Dexter Fowler and the veteran combination of David Ross and Miguel Montero at catcher.
The offense, at least as it stands right now, lives and dies with the plethora of former first-rounders. That includes 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Happ and Almora. Bryant wasn’t healthy last season and it showed in a big way. Schwarber and Almora struggled through second-half cold streaks and Happ struck out at an alarming rate in his first full big league season.
That’s not to say these guys won’t get back on track in 2019. Honestly, I expect the opposite to be true. But that’s not to say adding a veteran to the mix still isn’t in the cards. We’ve heard rumors of ownership’s concerns over writing nine-figure checks at will this winter – but a guy like Adam Jones isn’t going to break the bank.
A great clubhouse guy who deserves to win
Jones, who spent the last decade as the face of the Baltimore Orioles, hits the open market this winter facing real questions about his future. The 33-year-old San Diego, CA. native will likely want a starting role. But he saw diminished playing time in 2018 and if he wants to win a ring before he hangs it up, a situation like Chicago could be perfect.
The five-time All-Star has put up a better-than-average OPS+ annually since 2011 – with 2016 serving as the lone exception. Last year, Jones hit .281 with 15 long-balls and 35 doubles for the Orioles – so he’s no slouch with the stick.
Last season, he made just over $17 million – but there’s no way he comes close to touching that in his new deal. He’s heading into his mid-30s and it’s hard to see him getting more than maybe a two-year offer with an AAV somewhere in the $7-8 million range.
Jones hit .291 against left-handers last season. With Maddon’s proclivity to play matchups, you could very well see Schwarber on the bench against southpaws in lieu of Jones, in hopes of balancing out the batting order.
The hot stove isn’t even lit yet, by most accounts, but this is exactly the type of guy the Chicago Cubs need – a veteran guy who’s got a track record of being great in the clubhouse and can carry his weight offensively.