Over 10 seasons as an Oriole, center fielder Adam Jones has played in the All-Star Game five times, won four Gold Glove Awards, finished in the top 14 in the MVP vote three times and added a Silver Slugger Award, too.
It has been an impressive 10-year stretch, one that began with the Orioles mired in a long run of losing. But starting in 2012, the Orioles began a five-year stretch where they posted the best record in the American League.
Said simply, Jones has been a key player and a team leader as a franchise turned from a loser into a winner. Now both player and franchise face an uncertain future. If the Orioles turn into a club that goes into some form of a rebuilding mode, can they afford to keep their veteran center fielder beyond this year? Even a player that has been so important to the team on and off the field? Should some loyalty be shown to a player who has done so much over 10 seasons?
While Jones’ 2017 season produced some of his best numbers in a few seasons, no doubt his overall stats have fallen off in recent seasons.
From 2012-2014: .284 average, .321 OBP, .489 slugging, .810 OPS.
From 2015-2017: .273 average, .313 OBP, .458 slugging, .771 OPS.
In those first three years, Jones played in three All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves and finished in the top 14 in the MVP vote all three years. He averaged 31 homers and 95 RBIs. He averaged 4.66 Wins Above Replacement per season, according to FanGraphs. But since 2015, he has played in one All-Star Game, has no top 14 MVP finishes and no Gold Gloves. He has averaged 27 homers, 79 RBIs and a 2.3 WAR.
If the Orioles re-sign Jones, who can be a free agent after the 2018 season, they will be signing him for his age-32 season and beyond. He turns 33 on Aug. 1.
Jones has become an easy future Orioles Hall of Famer and now ranks among the top players in the club’s history in several key stat categories:
* No. 4 all-time in hits with 1,618
* No. 5 all-time in homers with 248
* No. 5 all-time in runs with 821
* No. 5 all-time in RBIs with 803
* No. 8 all-time in games played with 1,468
Only Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray have more hits than Jones with Baltimore. Jones, an Oriole since 2008 with he was 22, is the only player in the club’s history with seven consecutive seasons of 25 or more homers. That is an ongoing streak and is the third-longest among active players.
We could write another entire blog on all he has done in the Baltimore community. Jones’ #StayHungry Purple Tailgate before a Ravens game in November raised $100,000 for local Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore. He is a past winner of the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, presented by the Major League Baseball Players Association.
But this offseason, any discussion of re-signing Jones has been on the back burner as debate about the futures of Manny Machado, Zach Britton and even Brad Brach have been discussed more often. But all four players will be free agents after the 2018 season.
Jones had a pretty solid season in 2017. He hit .285/.322/.466 with 28 doubles, a triple, 26 homers, 73 RBIs and an OPS of .787. His .361 average with runners in scoring position led the AL. Jones produced his best batting average since 2013, his highest OBP since 2012, his best slugging percentage since 2015 and his best OPS since 2013.
He has been the heart of the team and face of the franchise for many years. There are many reasons to keep Jones to lead future O’s teams, whether they are contenders or not. But he may not want to start over with another rebuild, if the team eventually winds up in that spot.
Will both player and team management want to keep this pairing together?