The Orioles are preoccupied with drumming up potential trade partners, putting the most appealing and affordable free agents on their board and getting their coaches and various staff members under contract for the 2018 season.
Extension talks are on the back burner of the hot stove season.
Manny Machado’s representatives will hear from the Orioles in perhaps a final attempt to keep him from entering the free agent market. I don’t see the downside of negotiating during the season - Machado doesn’t need to skip games for it and I’m fairly certain that executive vice president Dan Duquette or managing partner Peter G. Angelos can squeeze in the necessary hours - but there’s always the fear that it could become a distraction.
Anyway, the Orioles are waiting to revisit the subject after a few previous attempts that didn’t go far.
“We’ve been focused on the trade possibilities and adding some players and also working on what we’re going to have to pay some of the players in the arbitration process,” Duquette said. “That’s been the focus of our work the last couple of weeks. Once we get our focus a little clearer on those issues, we can look at some other ones.”
Can the Orioles afford Machado? I seriously doubt it. The exorbitant cost in this market seems like an incredibly poor and unrealistic match. Take a poll within the organization and you won’t find many people brimming with optimism. But the sides need to talk again.
Machado didn’t play shortstop this year after making six starts in 2015 and 43 in 2016. There were whispers that the physical toll caused Machado to lose interest in the position, but I’ve heard that it remains his preference. Tim Beckham is on the roster, however, and the Orioles are left to decide whether he’s trustworthy with the glove. The bat certainly was a blessing in August.
The point here is that the door on Machado playing shortstop hasn’t slammed shut.
There’s such a fan and media preoccupation with Machado and closer Zach Britton, whether to trade or hold onto for at least one more run at a championship, that a player who rivals manager Buck Showalter as the face of the franchise seems to be an afterthought.
Anyone remember Adam Jones? The five-time All-Star center fielder who’s also approaching free agency?
Oh yeah, that guy.
Jones has $17 million remaining on the six-year, $85.5 million extension he signed in May 2012, at the time ranking as the largest contract in club history.
“I fit here in this city,” he said at his press conference. “I fit here on this team. I fit in Camden Yards. I don’t see myself wearing another white uniform that doesn’t have Orioles across the chest.
“I’m not from Baltimore. This is now my town.”
Duquette began negotiations with Jones’ agent in spring training and resumed talks a few weeks before reaching an agreement. During the season, with no deadline. Just as they did with J.J. Hardy in October 2014.
“The dude rang the cash register every time he hit a home run,” Duquette said of Jones, in one of his most memorable lines with the Orioles.
Jones had one more year on his original deal.
“Now, I don’t have to worry about trade deadline, free agency,” Jones said. “I don’t have to worry about any of that, just worry about being a part of the best team in baseball.”
The worrying is right around the corner, though Jones doesn’t strike me as the type who’s going to break out in cold sweats and lose sleep.
He’ll limit the tossing and turning to making pizzas - the only food analogy that came to me. #StayHungry.
Jones, 32, completed the 2017 season with a .285/.322/.466 slash line, 28 doubles, a triple, 26 home runs and 73 RBIs in 147 games. His WAR increased from 1.1 to 2.5 according to Baseball-Reference.com. He led the American League with a .361 average with runners in scoring position. And he’s the first player in franchise history with 25-plus home runs in seven consecutive seasons.
His importance in the clubhouse and the community could fill an entire web page.
The defensive metrics over the past two seasons haven’t been favorable for Jones, who registered a -13.3 ultimate zone rating (UZR) and a -14.4 UZR150 in 2017, according to FanGraphs. The Twins’ Byron Buxton led the American League with a 9.9 UZR and 13.1 UZR/150.
Buxton had 24 defensive runs saved, Jones -12. But manager Buck Showalter will bristle at the reciting of metrics and talk about players passing the eye test.
The length of an extension, if the sides agree to one, could determine how long Jones remains in center field. It would require an upgrade at the position, whether in-house or outside the organization. But that’s a conversation for another time.
It’s hard to believe that Jones has been an Oriole for 10 years. Has it really been that long since the Mariners overpaid for Erik Bedard?
Paul Blair played center field with the Orioles for 12 full seasons. He also played parts of one game at third base in 1968 and 1970, which requires an explanation that I can’t offer at the moment.
Al Bumbry moved around the outfield early in his career before making 108 starts in center in 1977.
Am I the only person who blocked out how Bumbry played 68 games with the Padres in 1985 before retiring?
Going back to Jones, tickets are available for his fifth annual #StayHungry Tailgate on Monday, Nov. 27 from 3:30 p.m.-8 p.m at the Purple Tailgate Zone on W. Ostend St. Click here for more details.
Rookie outfielder Trey Mancini is a confirmed guest of the tailgate.
More than $80,000 has been raised for the Boys & Girls Club of Baltimore, including $50,000 last year.