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Inbox: Any chance Jones returns to Orioles?

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers questions from fans
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

BALTIMORE -- The calendar turns, and just like that, Spring Training is just a few weeks away. Each Thursday until then, we'll be running a fresh Inbox with the goal of tackling your Orioles questions.

Behold the first of 2019, and there are a lot to get to. Let's get cracking.

BALTIMORE -- The calendar turns, and just like that, Spring Training is just a few weeks away. Each Thursday until then, we'll be running a fresh Inbox with the goal of tackling your Orioles questions.

Behold the first of 2019, and there are a lot to get to. Let's get cracking.

What are the chances of Adam Jones returning?
-- @Area51Field, via Twitter

While still unlikely, the chances of Jones returning to Baltimore increase with every day the Hot Stove continues at its glacial pace. The three-year, $50 million deal Andrew McCutchen got from the Phillies at the Winter Meetings ended up hardly moving the market at all. The only outfielders to sign since have done so on low-money show-me deals (Billy Hamilton and Jon Jay) or Minor League contracts (Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis and Peter Bourjos), leaving veterans like Jones, A.J. PollockDenard Span and Carlos Gomez still in wait.

Submit your question to the Inbox

Jones is likely looking for a deal like McCutchen's, given similarities in their ages and pedigrees. And if he did, it wouldn't be from the Orioles, whose plan to rebuild from the ground up doesn't jibe with handing out multiyear deals to aging outfielders.

But I doubt Jones will get a McCutchen-like deal. He doesn't profile as well with McCutchen as it may initially seem. Yes, they're both 32, five-time All-Stars and were moved from center field recently due to their declining defensive skills. They've also been worth about the same Wins Above Replacement over the past three seasons.

But let's dig deeper.

• Player A in 2018: .255/.368/.424, 20 home runs, 118 OPS+, 2.8 bWAR, 28.7 feet per second average sprint speed, -11 outs above average.

• Player B in 2018: .281/.313/.419, 15 home runs, 102 OPS+, 0.2 bWAR, 26.7 feet per second average sprint speed, -13 outs above average.

Player A is McCutchen, and Player B is Jones. Pretty close? Not so much if you foucus on the homers, the on-base percentage and the speed. McCutchen can still run at age 32 -- his sprint speed tied for seventh among full-time corner outfielders. Jones' placed him in the bottom 20th percentile of that group.

So what does this all mean? Jones may want to be paid like McCutchen, but in 2018, McCutchen showed more power, more wheels and a better eye that doesn't seem to be regressing with age. Jones may have to settle for less or lower his asking price.

I still think, in the end, Jones will get a one- or two-year deal with a contending club, perhaps even to be a useful veteran off the bench. But if he's still unsigned in Spring Training, maybe Jones and new O's GM Mike Elias could work something out that benefits both of them. Elias doesn't have any ties to Jones, but he isn't blind to the veteran's connection with the Baltimore fan base.

Can we expect to see guys like Yusniel Diaz and Ryan Mountcastle up in the Majors at some point this year?
-- @SchoopCity6 via Twitter

I'd say both are likely. For the Orioles' new front office, 2019 is going to be a lot about player development, and that means assessing the inherited talent already in the system and a lot of showcasing. They won't rush Diaz or Mountcastle, the O's top two prospects per MLB Pipeline. But if either performs well at Triple-A, the Orioles would have little reason not to promote them at some point this summer and see what they have. Diaz can play all three outfield positions, so finding him at-bats wouldn't be a challenge, and nobody is blocking Mountcastle at third base.

Why have the Orioles been so slow with the moves?
-- @kevinsantos2019 via Twitter

They've actually been really busy, just not in the juicy Hot Stove way that gets fans excited. Elias wasn't brought in until mid-November, which means the rookie GM has had less than two months (minus about a two-week break around the holidays, when the industry basically shuts down) to get his bearings and start building. The turnover so far has been substantial, and almost exclusively of the behind-the-scenes variety. That takes time, manpower and work. We broke it all down recently.

It's a lot, and there is more to come. The big league coaching staff should be finalized soon, after which Minor League coach assignments will be divvied up. I wouldn't expect much movement on the player front until then.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.

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