The Baltimore Orioles became the most recent team to hand out a big contract, when they announced a 6-year, $85.5 million guaranteed contract for center fielder Adam Jones. It’s the biggest agreement in club history, ahead of Miguel Tejada’s $72 million contract in 2004 and Nick Markakis’ $66.1 million deal in 2009. Baseball odds
Here is where the Orioles have a leg up: They’ve had an advantage of watching Jones up close since 2008, which gives them a major advantage in the evaluation process. Jones’ natural skills have constantly been clear. But with each passing season he has shown indicators of maturity and the eagerness to accept a leadership role on and off the field.
“The dude made the cash register ring each time he hit a home run Didn’t he?” announced Dan Duquette, Baltimore’s executive VP of baseball operations.
A few media members asked Jones concerning his call to totally commit to an association that hasn’t fielded a winning team since 1997. During the last decade and a half, the Orioles are neck-and-neck with the Pittsburgh Pirates in reconstructing plans gone wrong.
Jones’ response: He wants to stick around as he can’t conceive of the choice.
“You see a lot of different guys go to free agency and switch teams,” Jones said. “I fit here in this town. I fit here on this team. I fit in Camden Yards. I actually don’t see myself wearing another white uniform that doesn’t have ‘Orioles ‘ across the chest.”
In short, Jones knows this proud franchise has suffered and its followers are beaten down. He’s seen the dynamic 1st hand, so it might mean infinitely more to him to win in Baltimore than wait for free agency and jump on the bandwagon in another market.
The payday is still pretty sweet. Matt Kemp recently signed an 8-year, $160 million deal to play center field in Los Angeles, and Josh Hamilton will hit the mother lode when he becomes eligible for free agency in Nov. But Jones’ $14.5 million yearly payout will purchase a great deal of crab cakes. He’s averaged 150 games played over the last 2 seasons and will turn 33 year-old just before the end of the agreement, so that the Orioles are convinced that he’s a good risk.
“One of the keys to having a winning team year-in and year-out is to have players in your lineup who are trustworthy,” Duquette said. “Adam Jones goes to the post every day. He hits in the middle of the lineup. He uses his speed to put pressure on the other team offensively, and he helps stabilize our pitching staff by patrolling center field at a prime level. He helps us on each side of the ball. He’s 26 years old. And he’s a fixture in the community.”
The largest knocks on Jones: He’s a career .322 on-base guy and once in a while a ball goes over his head because of his love for playing forcibly shallow in center field. But he’s averaging a career-high 3.83 pitches per plate appearances this season, a sign of better plate discipline, and the Orioles haven’t voiced a lot of complaints about his defense.