Thoughts on Jones
In case you missed it last night (or were out celebrating Valentine’s Day), the Orioles agreed to a one-year deal with center fielder Adam Jones, thus avoiding an arbitration hearing which had been scheduled for Friday.
You can read contract details and more quotes on that here, but I wanted to focus in on the the biggest question surrounding Jones, which is how long he will be in Baltimore.
As it stands now, Jones will be a free agent after the 2013 season and while executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the two sides had some very preliminary talks about a long-term extension, the primary focus has always been working out his 2012 salary.
It isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that the two sides remain in talks and reach a long-term agreement with Jones sometime this spring, but I get the sense that the Orioles will probably wait until next offseason.
“I wouldn’t revisit it during the season,” Duquette said of Jones’ contractual status. “We’re glad we have a mutual agreement this year, and then we can take a little bit longer and more detailed look at a future contract. But, it was important for the team to get a deal done this year.
“I think [negotiating during the season] is a distraction to the player and the team. I think everybody’s interest is better served by putting the interest of the team first.”
The 26-year-old Jones, who was named the Most Valuable Oriole in 2011, has had to field a fair amount of extension questions over the past year and reiterated on the phone Tuesday night that it’s not up to him. The organization first has to approach Jones with a serious offer to extend him, and so far that hasn’t happened. Jones, who also spent this winter dealing with more trade rumors than at any point in his career, figures to again be one of the Orioles’ most talked about names at this year’s Trade Deadline and there’s no doubt he’s one of –if not the best — trade chip the O’s have.
So, what do you do with him? In my opinion, Jones’ future depends on the team’s pitching. If the young arms that the previous regime built around — most notably Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton — aren’t the future frontline arms you thought they would be, you trade Jones to try to acquire that pitching in the form of top prospects. Under that scenario, the O’s would still be several years away from contending and Jones would likely have his best years behind him at that point.
If the young arms — and the rest of the pitching staff — bounce back from a disastrous 2011 and show signs of improvement, I think there would be more of an inclination to keep Jones because the timeline for the organization to start to move forward would be accelerated. The Orioles’ offense, while without a true cleanup hitter, was right around League average last year and if the pitching can keep them in games, I do think they can be more competitive than last season.
Again, it all comes down to the pitching and it’s sink or swim for a lot of the Orioles’ arms this year. Are Matusz, Arrieta and Britton part of a rotation that’s going to start to turn the tide –as so many national and local media outlets had written the last two years — or are they part of a group of young arms that were overhyped and rushed through a system that has been heavily scrutinized for its player development? To me, that’s the biggest question this season and one that has serious ramifications up and down the organization.
Of course, there’s the question as to whether Jones would want to stay in Baltimore and pass up a shot at free agency and I think his camp would certainly be willing to listen. Jones is a fierce competitor who wants to win badly, but he pointed out to me last night on the phone that there’s a certain pride in staying and watching an organization turn things around.
“Who wouldn’t want to win in Baltimore?,” Jones said. “I go to my girlfriend’s dad’s, he has old newspaper clippings of when they were good in the 90s, and it’s just boatloads of newspapers. He reads the newspaper every day and he’s just got piles of stuff like that from when they were good.
People say the fan base is going away, I dont think they’re going away; I think they’re angry. They want to win.”