SAN DIEGO — Former Orioles star Adam Jones, who left the organization after free agency last year following a storied career in Baltimore, is in talks to sign with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, according to multiple reports.
According to The Athletic, the two sides are in talks on a multi-year deal that could be finalized this week, as the baseball world is in Jones’ native San Diego for the annual winter meetings.
Jones, 34, spent 2019 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was back on the free agent market after hitting .260 with 16 home runs and a .728 OPS. His time with the Orioles, which began in 2008, was far more productive.
A five-time All-Star who won four Gold Glove awards in center field, Jones had at least 25 home runs every year from 2011 to 2017 — a run that spanned the Orioles’ rise to relevance and subsequent fall. He became a beloved player on a team full of them, and during his final game at Camden Yards, Jones was feted for over a decade of leadership on and off the field in Baltimore.
Signing in Japan would mark a unique chapter for Jones and his young family. He would be one of the most high-profile expatriate baseball players to go from the United States to play in Japan, and do so at a time when major league teams and their evaluation methods aren’t necessarily kind to players like Jones.
Though no longer on the team, the Orioles have had several players go from their organization to Asia. Pitcher Tyler Wilson went to Korea after the 2017 season, and this winter alone, pitchers Aaron Brooks and Mike Wright went to Korea while pitchers Gabriel Ynoa and Tayler Scott signed in Japan after electing free agency.
Orioles claim Diplán
The Orioles claimed right-hander Marcos Diplán off waivers from the Detroit Tigers on Monday, creating the first bit of player movement at this week’s baseball winter meetings.
Diplán, 23, was a longtime Milwaukee Brewers farmhand who was dealt to the Minnesota Twins for cash on July 31. He was claimed off waivers by Detroit in September, and between Double-A Biloxi and Double-A Pensacola, Diplán had a 4.85 ERA in 38 appearances (seven starts) with a 1.47 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings.
“We have roster space,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said. “He’s a very interesting arm. He’s a former top prospect who’s still very young, he’s got an elite fastball, pretty good slider — especially to right-handed hitters, and it’s a changeup that’s intriguing, I mean really on the come. He has walked a few too many guys in his career and he still hasn’t gotten out of Double-A, but given the upside and the age and the prospect pedigree, he’s just a little more interesting than your usual guy on waivers, especially for a team in our situation.”
Before this year, Diplán was primarily a starter in the Brewers organization. He has a 3.88 ERA in 540 2/3 career minor league innings with over a strikeout per inning, albeit with a higher walk rate than anyone would like.
“We’ll see how it goes the rest of the offseason and what we’ll do with the roster spots, but I could easily see him being somebody that comes into camp and you kind of hope it’s clocked and we’ve found something,” Elias said. “He does have an option remaining too, which is enticing for us too if he needs to spend time in Triple-A and keep developing, or if he needs to be one of those guys who can be optioned during the season.”
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Diplan filled one of the 40-man roster spots left when the Orioles traded Jonathan Villar to the Miami Marlins and Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels this month. He’ll be counted among the Orioles’ high-minors pitching depth as executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias looks to enhance that deficiency in the organization.
Milwaukee added Diplan to their 40-man roster ahead of the 2018 season, and he has one minor league option remaining.
The Orioles are providing a pair of unique experiences for this year’s winter meetings auction, which will benefit charities that support research, awareness and care surrounding ALS.
In one, a fan and a guest can bid on a pregame lunch with All-Star pitcher John Means, with the chance to continue the day with a behind-the-scenes experience at Oriole Park at Camden Yards that could include manager Brandon Hyde’s pregame press conference and watching an inning in Elias’ suite.
In another, fans can bid on a set of individually autographed baseballs from Orioles legends Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson. This package also comes with four game tickets, a parking pass, and four batting practice field passes for an Orioles game.