When will O’s lock Jones into long-term deal?

Despite making an All Star appearance and winning a Gold Glove in 2009, it seems this is the year the light bulb has truly gone off for Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.

There’s no question the Orioles want Jones in Baltimore for years to come. The 25-year-old has two more arbitration years and will be under the club’s control for 2012 and 2013. After which he’ll become a free agent.
So - when will the O’s lock him into a long-term deal?

Andy MacPhail says the Orioles made an attempt to start discussions with Jones’ agent last offseason.

“We actually, in Adam’s case, had a brief conversation with Casey Close of CAA at the last winter meetings and talked about, you know, we’d be interested in talking about it in the following parameters,” MacPhail said. “But I think they felt like Adam was still on the ascent and wanted him to play and further establish himself, and they may very well be right.”

MacPhail’s track record in Baltimore shows he’s committed to locking up talent well before they reach free agency. In 2009 Andy MacPhail wasted no time making sure Nick Markakis wasn’t going anywhere. The O’s gave the right fielder a six-year/$66 million dollar deal after his third year in the big leagues.

Just one month after Markakis, the Orioles also locked in Brian Roberts well before his contract was up. Roberts signed a four-year/$40 million deal.

Jones appears to be next in line, but based on MacPhail’s comments, Jones’ camp doesn’t want to jump the gun. Instead the young outfielder will put faith in his upside and hope to command a more lucrative deal down the road. A player always rolls the dice when choosing that route. It’s a tough line to walk.

For now the O’s would like to see Jones continue to be a player who can prevent runs and score them. In his past nine games, Jones is hitting .421 with five extra base hits. He’s proving to be clutch as well hitting .406 with two doubles, a triple, two homers and 20 RBIs.

We’ll see if MacPhail revisits that conversation with Jones’ agent this offseason. At the level Jones is playing right now, something tells me he will.