Who will be the next Oriole to sign a long-term contract?

It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that the Orioles moved to lock up two of their better home-grown players and signed Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts to long-term contracts.

Who will be the next Oriole, home grown or not, to sign the next megabucks deal?

The Orioles have signed four of their six arbitration-eligible players to 2011 contracts but there hasn't been any indication the club is moving to lock up any of them to longer deals, at least not right now.

After three seasons with the Orioles, some may have wondered whether the O's thought about a long-term deal for center fielder Adam Jones, who was signed to a $3.25 million contract for the coming season.

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At a similar point in his career the O's did lock up Markakis. After his third year with the club he got a six-year contract in January of 2009 as the O's bought out three years of his potential free agency.

But while Markakis was coming off a year where he hit .306-20-87 with 48 doubles and an OPS of .897 then, Jones hit .284-19-69 last year with 25 doubles and an OPS of .767.

The O's don't seem to be as sold on Jones' future as they were earlier with Markakis.

While there could be contract talks going on with any player out of the media glare, there doesn't seem to be a move by the club right now to offer Luke Scott or Jeremy Guthrie longer deals.

Both Scott and Guthrie could be free agents for the first time after the 2012 season. Jones can be a free agent after 2013.

To me, the time has not come just yet to offer these players deals beyond the coming year. Anytime you mention being careful about money, it frustrates some fans who just want the club to spend more.

But just with arbitration cases alone, the Birds will have to fork out some real dollars in the coming years for players like Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters and Jake Arrieta in addition to all the players that were arbitration eligible this year except for J.J. Hardy.

One of the toughest things for any organization to do well is size up the talents of its own players and know when to trade them or when to sign them to a six-year deal like Markakis got.

Sure, by not signing Jones long-term now, the club may have to spend even more for him later. He could have a monster year this season and force the club to pony up the big bucks. But you would think the O's would see paying for performance as a good problem to have. May all their young players earn big contracts.

But Jones is under team control for three more seasons and now does not seem like the time to start buying out any of his free agent years.

While this could be the year he blossoms into a star, it could also be a season where he could struggle again to hit the breaking ball and put up good, but not great stats.

In my opinion, the O's were right to lock up Markakis and Roberts when they did. They are cornerstones of the franchise and also seem to really care about the community they play in. They represent the Orioles well on and off the field.

While the club has several other talented young players on its roster, right now there doesn't seem to be anyone that has the inside track to get that next big contract.

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