Adam Jones won’t reach free agency, barring an extension on his contract, until the conclusion of the 2018 season. It doesn’t tap him on the shoulder, but he can feel its presence.
Jones has stated that whether he stays in Baltimore depends on the front office, that he’s not calling all the shots. What he’s doing now is watching how the market unfolds and wondering what the coming years have in store.
The sluggers are settling or staying on the board. Mark Trumbo received a three-year, $37.5 million deal from the Orioles after early projections had five years as a possibility. Jose Bautista re-signed with the Blue Jays for one year and $18 million, with a mutual option in 2018. Chris Carter, Mike Napoli and Pedro Alvarez are still looking for work.
“A few years back, the stats Trumbo put up, he should be getting four or five years, upwards of $18-22 million a year, something like that,” Jones said earlier this week on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “Times have changed, the metrics and all that stuff. How they’re calculating all that stuff is really going into how they’re paying people and it’s crazy how it is.
“Free agency the last few years has been different. I think players, myself talking to friends thinking that guys are going to get this and that and they ended up signing for something completely different. One year or two years and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ The market is really, really crazy.
“They’re starting to see value in a lot of other things. Billy Beane’s way of thinking is really being implemented in a lot of franchises, and believe it or not, it’s working in certain ways, I believe. But at the end of the day, you’d still like to spend money in some sort of way. I think Dan (Duquette) and Buck (Showalter) and Peter (Angelos), they’re all happy they got him at this price.”
What is catcher Matt Wieters going to get? And which team is going to pay him?
Wieters most recently has been linked to the Brewers, and the Rays apparently remain in play. Jones said he hasn’t talked to his former teammate - a planned appearance at one function never transpired - and he wonders why the four-time All-Star remains unemployed.
“I’m surprised he’s still on the market,” Jones said. “This free agency is weird. Three years ago, everybody thought if Wieters hits free agency, he’ll go to Atlanta. That didn’t happen. It’s weird for so many guys, big league and minor league level, there are so many guys who are out there, which is surprising. Obviously, there are still a few weeks left in spring training and there’s a lot of transactions coming, but it’s different.
“It’s a different feeling seeing free agency and how slow it is. The Winter Meetings are usually the haven for everything. I don’t even know what happened at the Winter Meetings because it wasn’t as significant as previous years. It’s crazy. It’s scary being a free agent. I’m glad I don’t have to see that for a couple of years possibly.”
Jones may have only two more seasons to win a championship with the Orioles, again depending on future contract negotiations. Finishing above .500 and being in contention isn’t enough, and the feeling is shared by everyone in the clubhouse and the man who sits in the manager’s office.
“What’s the point of just being competitive?” Jones asked. “I mean, cool, be good. But you just want to be good? No.
“Some people tell me, ‘We want a statue of you out there. Hopefully, they’ll make a statue of you out there.’ There’s only one way to get a statue. That’s to win it all. And don’t say anything before that. If you don’t win it all, ain’t no statue. I mean, you can get that little plaque over there on that wall. It would be cool to get that, and maybe the Orioles Hall of Fame. But you’re talking about a statue? You’ve got to do some incredible things and one of them is win.
“This is my 10th year and it’s kind of like my own personal dynasty with the Orioles and it would be great with the last few years left to grab a championship. That would be pretty cool to see. I don’t know all the streets downtown, but I know they’ve been renovated for the F-1 races, so it would be cool to have a parade. The Ravens had a great parade back in ‘13. Why not have one of ours in ‘17?”
The Orioles won’t replace their logo with the image of a window closing, but you get the idea. Chris Tillman and J.J .Hardy can become free agents after this season, and the contracts of Duquette, Showalter, Jones, Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach run out after 2018.
“It’s a thing where we’ve been together for so long,” Jones said. “I’ve seen all these guys’ debuts besides J.J. We know each other beyond the game. I think it’s like any other core group of guys for any other franchise. You want to win and you want to win together. It’s great to get a championship no matter where you play, but when you’ve been around guys for a significant amount of time, you want to win for each other.
“I know all the guys have this burning desire to get it. It’s just some small missing pieces that go along with the puzzle. The beautiful part about it is our owner has been willing to spend some more money, especially at the break, and bring some more trades and be more creative, and that’s something Orioles fans have been mad about and frustrated with in previous years.
“The last few years have proven that, if we’re in it at the break, you never know. That’s what I always tell you guys. Ask me at the break, how we’re doing at the break. If we’re doing good, then hey, it’s time to see what we can pull off. If we’re not, then it’s time to see what we can pull off in a different way, right?
“It’s a business. You’ve got to understand that. If we’re in it at the break, they’re going to do something. If we’re not, they’re going to do something. I look at it like that.”
Anyone coming from the outside must be able to play for Showalter, as Jones has said on numerous occasions. It’s not always a perfect fit, but it’s rarely been an issue. Guys seem to adapt and later appreciate the environment.
“Obviously, Buck does his scouting report and I do my scouting report,” Jones said. “I mean, I signed a six-year deal here. You don’t think I’m just going to lay down and just go play? No, I invest my time and my family and all my resources in this city, so you don’t think I’m going to know what’s going on in the office? So I know what it takes to play for him.
“I’ve seen players go and come, I’ve seen a lot of different things - some things good, some things bad, some things fortunate, some things unfortunate. You learn your workplace, and I think that I’ve learned my workplace well enough, especially in Baltimore, to know who can play for Buck and who can’t. Especially going around the league and playing against other competitors. I know other managers, also. I know who can play for him and who can’t, and some people can’t. That’s just how it is.
“Some managers are different. We’ve still got the old school guy and some people don’t want that, if that makes any sense. It sounds like he’s Sargent Slaughter or something like that. It’s not like he’s like that, but it’s like he’s like that.”
Jones is the longest-tenured Oriole, arriving in a Feb. 8, 2008 trade with the Mariners that’s become one of the most lopsided in franchise history. He enjoys being the leader, a role he wanted to assume the instant that he stepped inside the clubhouse. It just took a little while. Got to earn those stripes.
“I’m not at it alone,” he said. “J.J.’s obviously a great guy to lean on. More time, two years older. (Darren) O’Day’s another guy, a veteran to lean on, a couple years older. A couple years less in service time, so I let him know that sometimes when he wants to step out of line.
“I’ve got a great group of guys that go out there and lead themselves by example, especially the guys who are 30, around that age, especially different organizations that they came from. We’ve had veterans from other organizations who were on their way out, but still taught us pretty good values and stuff like that going forward in our careers. It’s fortunate that we’ve been successful in our own individual ways, but we’ve been able to give back the knowledge because we’ve been successful in our own ways that people do take heed in what we’re saying. It’s a collective group, but it’s good to be at the head of that group.”
Jones is a vocal leader, the opposite of Trumbo, who’s quiet in nature but still commands respect. Kevin Millar was a talker. Cal Ripken Jr. led by example. Wieters would speak up, but not at the MPH and decibel level of Jones and Millar.
“Trumbo was a guy who came in and knew, obviously, being around the league, knew guys just through competition and just slowly, slowly, slowly blended himself into the team, and now he’s going to be here for three years,” Jones said. “He’s opened up his personality for sure, but now I think he can be even more open because he’s going to be here for a while, and that is how it is. He got himself comfortable the way he did, which is great.
“On our team and in our clubhouse it’s pretty easy to get comfortable because we have a good blend of everything. When it comes to music, movies, any sort of thing, you’re liable to hear any sort of thing on any given day or any conversation. We’ll talk about anything. We just genuinely have a good time. It’s really like a country club.”