Will the Cleveland Guardians ultimately regret trading Nolan Jones?

Nolan Jones had a historically great rookie season in Colorado - will the Guardians ultimately regret giving up on him?
Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

Nolan Jones made his major-league debut with the Cleveland Guardians amid their magical 2022 season, but was ultimately cast aside thanks to the emergence of Oscar Gonzalez in right field. Then, in the offseason, Cleveland quickly traded Jones to the Colorado Rockies , adding yet another middle infielder to the system in Juan Brito.

And if you weren't paying attention to the Rockies this season (and you'd be forgiven if you weren't), you might have missed Jones' tremendous rookie campaign. Even calling it tremendous might be an understatement, as the 25-year-old recorded a 20/20 season in the fewest plate appearances in MLB history (424).

Jones' full line for his rookie season looks like this: .297/.389/.542 with 20 home runs, 22 doubles, four triples, 62 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, and a 138 OPS+ in 367 at-bats.

You don't think the Guardians would have liked that in right field all season?

Oh, and Jones threw out 19 baserunners, too, which led all of baseball.

It just keeps getting worse for Cleveland here.

With the way Gonzalez's major-league career has already begun to flame out, moving Jones becomes all the more painful. Did he strike out quite a bit when he was with Cleveland? Sure, but since when has that stopped the Guardians from giving Gabriel Arias unlimited chances to try and prove himself at the major-league level?

The Guardians seemingly saw enough of Jones after just 94 plate appearances. But even in those 28 games last year, Jones held his own, hitting .244/.309/.372 with two home runs, five doubles, 13 RBIs, and a 96 OPS+. We're talking about a former second-round pick who had a pretty decent minor-league career and was really starting to put it together at Triple-A Columbus in 2022.

We'll hear every excuse in the book. It's the Colorado effect. He still strikes out too much - 30% of the time with the Rockies. One solid rookie season doesn't predict the rest of his career; don't put so much stock in that.

These are nothing but empty attempts to try and prevent oneself from confronting the reality of the situation, which is this: The Cleveland Guardians royally screwed up by trading Nolan Jones. There's just no way around it, and we have to live with that fact made all the more painful as the team currently exists without a right fielder at all.

No one knows where Jones' career will ultimately go, or what kind of career Juan Brito might ultimately have, but losing him has no doubt set the team back in the short-term. After all, a potential outfield of Jones, Steven Kwan, and Chase DeLauter sure sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

The Guardians need to do a lot of soul-searching this offseason in how they evaluate offensive talent; the painful trades of Jones, Will Benson, and Junior Caminero prove there is some sort of deficiency in Cleveland's process. Maybe a new manager will play some sort of role in this evolution, but whatever it is, the Guardians need to figure it out and right this ship quick.