Andrew Stetka: Outside of Machado, O’s have another looming free agency issue

It’s no secret that the Orioles have a little bit of a roster issue as they head forward. In the coming winter, the O’s are bound to lose some key contributors from the roster. Chris Tillman, Ubaldo JimĂ©nez, Jeremy Hellickson, Seth Smith, Ryan Flaherty and Craig Gentry will all be free agents. They could also lose J.J. Hardy, Wade Miley and Welington Castillo, who each have options of some sort.

Once the winter of 2018 rolls around, that list expands to include much bigger, even more important names. The types of names that were mentioned in trade rumors just weeks ago, such as Zach Britton and Brad Brach. It also includes, of course, Manny Machado. The All-Star third baseman is without question the most talented member of this growing list of players who could depart over the next few years. He’s also the most valuable on the open market, being a 24-year-old who will absolutely break the bank no matter where he ends up. But when it comes to value to the city of Baltimore and a fan base, there is another name that the Orioles should be paying attention to.

Adam Jones, the team’s unannounced captain and outspoken leader, is also set for free agency after next season. Jones wasn’t floated in trade talks at the end of last month, and for good reason. He has 10-and-5 rights that would allow him to block any trade anyhow. But there were some in the national media that wondered why Jones, along with Machado, weren’t even included in any discussions with other teams. For what it’s worth, I agree with wondering why Machado wasn’t on the block. But when it comes to Jones, there was no chance the O’s were going to deal the center fielder.

Jones turned 32 last week, and is clearly important to the Orioles in more ways than just those that he shows on the field. He’s been in Baltimore since before things were good. He’s not only a consistent player who contributes a great deal from a baseball side of things, but he’s a symbol of this newer generation of the Orioles franchise. For many years, fans may have thought that would be Brian Roberts or Nick Markakis, perhaps even Matt Wieters. But instead it has been Jones that survived. He’s proven to be an important centerpiece for everything going on within the white lines, but also outside of them.

Whether it’s speaking out about racial issues or working with kids in the inner city and teaching them the game, Jones gets it. He gets what it means to be a leader and an ambassador for a city. While he’ll always be from San Diego, he’ll also always have part of his heart in Baltimore no matter where life takes him.

Further investing financially in Jones may seem on the surface to be a mistake for the Orioles. He is no longer in the March or April of his career. He’s in the August or September. But I don’t see it that way. I’m not here to argue that Jones will be a better player on the field going forward than Machado, or even any of the players the O’s are set to part ways with in the coming years. I’m merely saying it’s important to keep Jones in the fold for reasons beyond baseball.

It may seem crazy beating the drum for a 32-year-old who may be on the downslope of his career, but in my mind, Jones means that much to this team. I sincerely hope the O’s find a way to keep him in Baltimore for the rest of his career. Signing Machado or even extending Jonathan Schoop would be great things to accomplish over the next 12 months, but getting Jones locked up would also go a long way to preserving some part of this current core that has given fans so much to cheer about.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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