Pittsburgh Pirates Where Are They Now: INF/OF Garrett Jones


This Pittsburgh Pirates slugger was a key member of the team’s 2012 and 2013 team, but what happened to him afterwards?

In the early 2010s, first baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones was a noticeable presence in the Pittsburgh Pirates line up. An underdog throughout the minors, he was finally given a shot by the Pirates, and became a full-time player for the Bucs for a couple of seasons. However, since the mid-2010s, he has become forgotten by many baseball fans.

Jones was originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves back in the 1999 draft in the 14th round. After a couple of years toiling at rookie ball, Jones was released in May, 2002, and signed as a minor league free agent by the Minnesota Twins just days later. Jones’ first two seasons in the Twins’ organization were not good. He posted a sub-.700 OPS in both seasons, including a .610 OPS in 238 plate appearances at A-Ball.

However, Jones would breakout in 2004 when he clobbered 31 home runs, and batted .304/.347/.564 in 563 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A. While he did not reach these heights in either 2005 or 2006, he was having a solid year at the Triple-A level. Good enough for a brief call to the Majors where the slugger collected just 16 hits, but struck out 20 times in 84 plate appearances. Jones did not return to the Majors in 2008, but hit for a .279/.337/.484 line with 23 home runs and 33 doubles in 587 plate appearances at Triple-A. Good for a 128 wRC+.

Now 28-years-old, and seeming like Jones’ career would amount to a career minor leaguer, he was released by the Twins following the 2008 season. That’s when the Pittsburgh Pirates swooped in, and signed the free agent to a minor league contract. And boy did that pay off the next season.

Garrett Jones, a 28-year-old rookie, appeared in 82 games, and 358 plate appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates and slashed .293/.372/.567 with 21 home runs and doubles, 10 stolen bases, and finished with 142 wRC+. While his outfield defense wasn’t great, it was manageable with +4 DRS, -1.1 UZR, and -1.8 range runs above average.

Among rookies that year with at least 300 plate appearances, the minor league signee actually led all rookies in wRC+. So did his .393 wOBA. Despite that, Jones still finished 7th in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

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The following season, Jones was primed for a starting role, but failed to continue his rookie year success. In 654 plate appearances, the first baseman batted just .247/.306/.414. He did hit 21 home runs and collect 34 doubles, but that was the only redeeming part of his 2010 season. He posted a wRC+ of just 95 and OPS+ of 94.

Defensively, he was awful at first base with -13 DRS and -3.9 UZR. Overall, he suffered a sophomore slump that ended with a -0.3 bWAR and -0.2 fWAR.

In 2011, Jones had a better season, this time making up the left handed part of a platoon in right field. He batted for a better looking .243/.321/.433 line, hit 16 dingers, and reached the 30 double mark for the second straight season in 478 plate appearances. This time around, he was roughly 5-10% better than the league average with a 110 OPS+ and 109 wRC+, but 104 DRC+. His outfield defense again wasn’t good, but manageable with -3 DRS, -0.2 UZR, and -0.6 range runs.

2012 was probably Jones’ best season. Although his walk rate dropped a significant amount from previous seasons, down to 6.4%, Jones still batted .274/.316/.516 with 21 long balls, 28 doubles and a 126 OPS+ in 515 plate appearances. He also had a 125 wRC+ and DRC+ in 2012. He mainly platooned at first base with Casey McGehee and Gaby Sanchez during the season, but also saw some time in the outfield. He didn’t post good results wherever the Pittsburgh Pirates placed him, as he finished the year with a -1.7 defensive WAR.

Following the 2012 season, GI Jones was again platooned at first base with Sanchez, but did not come close to replicating his numbers from previous seasons. He hit just .233/.289/.419 with 15 home runs and 26 doubles. He finished out with a 98 OPS+ and wRC+ and 95 DRC+. Defensively, Jones once again, put up below average numbers. He mainly played first base (-1 DRS, -2.9 UZR), but also got some innings in the outfield (-1 DRS, -0.5 UZR, 0.1 range runs). Jones finished the year off with a -0.3 fWAR.

The weak showing in 2013 led to Jones being designated for assignment after the team acquired prospects Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas in a trade with the San Diego Padres. Jones was projected to earn $5.3 million in arbitration, which is a fairly steep price to pay for a defensively limited 1B/RF who posted his second negative fWAR season in the past four years. He was non-tendered by the club soon after, and headed into free agency.

Jones’ trip through free agency was very short as just days later, he was signed by the Miami Marlins to be their regular first baseman. Jones stepped to the plate in a Marlins uniform 547 times, and did better compared to 2013, albeit with still overall unimpressive numbers.

Those numbers include a slash of just .247/.309/.411, 15 home runs, a 100 OPS+ and 101 wRC+. He did hit 33 doubles, but was overall just a league average bat. Jones was mainly used as a platoon, and only received 73 plate appearances vs southpaws. Defensively, he was below average with -3 DRS, -1.8 UZR, and a -1.5 dWAR at first base.

2014 would be the only season Garret would play in Miami. During the 2014-2015 off-season, he was shipped off to the New York Yankees with pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Domingo German for pitcher David Phelps and infielder Martin Prado. Jones was to serve as depth for Mark Texieria. During his Yankee tenure, Jones only got 152 plate appearances, posting a .618 OPS and 67 OPS+ before being DFA’d in late July. Just days later, he was resigned to a minor league contract, but didn’t appear in another Major League game for the Yankees, or any other MLB team for the rest of his career.

Jones gave it one more shot, as he headed across seas to Japan to play with the Yomiuri Giants for the 2016 season. Overall he did solid, batting .258/.327/.486 with 24 home runs. But the interest in a now 36-year-old first baseman/outfielder just wasn’t there, and he subsequently went into retirement.

Next. A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer: Grant Ford. dark

But because Jones went into retirement doesn’t mean he is done with the game of baseball. Jones appears in a few of the Pittsburgh Pirates pre/post-game broadcasts during the 2019 season, and is currently an analyst for AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh for the Bucs.