Top prospect Cedric Mullins is the Orioles’ new center fielder, the team announced Friday. Mullins was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk earlier in the day and is making his major debut during the Orioles’ series opener against the Red Sox, while the club’s established center fielder, Adam Jones, shifts over to his new spot in right field.
Mullins, 23, came in at no. 9 in the Orioles’ system during MLB Pipeline’s midseason prospect rankings this year. His speed and defensive ability has made him a covetable asset in the outfield, and his combined .288/.346/.465 batting line, 11 home runs, and 21 stolen bases (in 22 chances) at Double-A and Triple-A have made him an equal threat in the lineup.
It’s an amicable passing of the torch for veteran outfielder and four-time Gold Glover Jones, whose fWAR dipped to a career-worst 0.4 mark in 2018 even as he slashed .281/.310/.430 with 12 homers and a .740 OPS for the club. Per MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli, Jones is expected to be permanently stationed at the right field corner after spending over a decade in center field, though the team isn’t pushing him to scale back his playing time by any means — according to comments made by skipper Buck Showalter, he’ll continue to play “as long as he wants to.”
Jones, for his part, doesn’t appear rattled by the change.
An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.
As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.
While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.