While Adam Jones continues his transition to playing right field for the Orioles, executive vice president Dan Duquette denies that the organization carries a feeling of animosity toward the five-time All-Star over his refusal to approve a trade.
Jones stated in a podcast earlier this month, co-hosted by Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, that he sensed it based on Duquette’s remarks following a July 29 trade of reliever Brad Brach to the Braves for $250,000 in international signing bonus slot funds.
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “I heard some of Duquette’s comments now and I’m just like, ‘OK, all right.’ You can say what you want, but I earned it.”
Duquette was responding to a question about the chances that the Orioles would attempt to re-sign Jones in free agency despite the shedding of veterans and payroll.
“I think the club is in the rebuild mode and we’re going to be taking a look at some younger ballplayers going forward,” Duquette said in July. “We’ve made that clear. That’s the intent of the club and that’s the direction we’re going to go in.”
Pressed on whether Jones could be back next season, Duquette said, “His contract is up. I don’t whether Adam will be here or not, but the club is going in the direction of younger ballplayers, I can tell you that.”
The Phillies tried to acquire Jones, but he chose to stay with the Orioles rather than join a pennant race in the National League. Duquette told MASNsports.com yesterday afternoon that he understood Jones’ position on the matter based on service time in the majors and tenure with the club.
“The 10-5 right is a right that the players accrue based on their longevity playing and in a singular market, and Adam earned that right on the basis of being in Baltimore for, what, going on 10 years, right? So, that’s a right that he has and I respect the right,” Duquette said.
“I thought it was important to communicate to Adam that the club was going to go through a significant rebuild and that we were going to be looking at a young center fielder in Cedric Mullins. But whatever Adam’s reasons to not consent to a (trade), those are Adam’s reasons, they’re personal reasons. I respect him and I respect the right that the player earned. Just like the club respects all the rights the players have in the basic agreement. So, for a player to exercise a right that he’s earned, I don’t know why he detected there would be animosity from the club.
“The club made it clear what the intention of the club was going forward and that was that we were going to trade some veteran player contracts, which we did consistently through the month of July and that’s the direction that the club was going given the season we had. But, I mean, personally I respect the right and I know the ownership respects the rights of the players. But it wasn’t consistent with the direction of the club. Like I said, the club respects the rights of the players. Always has.”
Jones has made four starts in right field since the Orioles selected Mullins contract from Triple-A Norfolk and put the rookie in center. They don’t have an obvious successor to Jones next season and aren’t closing the door on re-signing him, but it still seems unlikely given the direction that they’re headed with the rebuild.
“I was encouraged by how Adam went to right field and the jumps he got on the ball his first couple games there,” Duquette said. “So, I thought the reviews were good, I thought he looked good. But I don’t really know what’s going to happen next year.
“I’ve been told by ownership that the club’s going to take the payroll down significantly. The club has funded a major league payroll beyond the market for several years to maintain a competitive window, but given where we are now I don’t know that it makes sense to continue on that track. But that’s an off-season issue. I don’t really know where the club’s going to be on that right now.”
Mullins finally got the call on Friday after batting a combined .288/.346/.465 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs, 46 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 22 attempts over 108 games between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk. His speed and defense brought tremendous appeal to a club lacking in both areas.
“We were thinking of recalling him earlier and we decided to give him some time at Triple-A,” Duquette said. “He did well at Triple-A. He hit the ball well, he always plays good defense, he throws well. We’re working on his base running.
“His strengths are he’s got good speed, a switch-hitter, he’s got a powerful swing from the left side. He looks like he’s got the skills to play center field and we thought that would be additive to the team. He’s a solid all-around offensive player. He’s got all the tools to be an everyday player.”
More players on the farm could filter into the roster before the season reaches its conclusion.
“I think (Steve) Wilkerson’s starting a rehab assignment this week, so he may be able to come back and help the club,” Duquette said. “We’ve been following DJ Stewart to see if he would merit a look in the big leagues. A couple of pitchers that we can keep an eye on. They’re doing pretty well.
“(John) Means is throwing the ball pretty good, (Josh) Rogers has thrown the ball well since we picked him up the Yanks. And then (Luis) Gonzalez was doing well in Double-A, we sent him to Triple-A and he’s been pitching pretty well there. And Luis Ortiz pitched a great game the other night at Triple-A. And Branden Kline is pitching well at Double-A. So, they’re all possibilities for us.”
The Orioles designated Danny Valencia for assignment to make room for Mullins and there hasn’t been a resolution.
“We’re working on identifying a trade partner,” Duquette said, “but we haven’t been able to do that yet.”
Teams must acquire players by Aug. 31 to make them eligible for postseason rosters. The Orioles have been known to swing deals late in the month, though recently in buyer mode.
“It’s a little early to handicap the 31st trade deadline,” Duquette said. “I’d expect teams would be actively adding players. We’ll have to see. We did a lot of the heavy lifting at the waiver trade deadline.”