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Baltimore Orioles: The Adam Jones problem

With today having been an off day I thought I might take a look at one of the big elephants in the room surrounding the Orioles: Adam Jones. In a nutshell Jones has one year left of arbitration left before he would become a free agent, as he told MASN’s Amber Theoharis in a video chat when asked the other day. GM Dan Duquette was prepared to go to an arbitration hearing with/against Jones this past year just prior to spring training, however the team and Jones reached a deal the night before the would-be hearing.

The problem with arbitration is that it’s in effect counter-productive, and it can cause bad feelings between the team and the player. This is not to say that fans should have a problem with the Orioles going to arbitration; there are some players with whom it’s well worth it. This past year pitcher Brad Bergesen went to arbitration against the Orioles and lost. A pitcher that had inconsistent stats over time and had gone back and forth between the majors and minors should be happy that he’s drawing a salary. So that was well worth doing, however how could the Orioles have justifiably gone to arbitration and argued that 2011’s Most Valuable Oriole wasn’t worth giving a raise?

The concern first off is that Duquette will go to arbitration against Jones again this year. That would be ill-advised because while Duquette has never had an issue going to arbitration in the past, Jones is also having a monster year. So would an arbitrator not be compelled to rule against the Orioles assuming that continues? However that aside, in the past couple of weeks the pressure has been heightened by fans for the Orioles to extend Jones. He’s under team control for next year, and then he would hit the open market. For what it’s worth, another fan base that’s very close by is already talking about the potential of signing Jones when his contract is up (see here). Which team might prospectively sign Jones is almost irrelevant; the fact is that there would be a huge market for him after next year if he’s not extended. Even if the Orioles continue to contend this year and next, do the Orioles really feel comfortable knowing that Jones has the option of talking to other clubs?

My personal opinion is that they’ve already made an error in not extending him before this season. That would have been when they would have gotten the best bang for their buck per se. While they had no way of knowing that Jones was going to break out like he has, nobody is really surprised by it either. Jones has said that he doesn’t want to negotiate during the season, however if there’s a significant piece of news that comes about his agent will let him know. I read that as saying if the Orioles make a serious offer he’ll listen. Dan Duquette has had some limited contact with Jones’ agent, however nothing serious from what I understand.

Ultimately, this is not a guy that the Orioles can afford to see walk. No matter how much the powers-that-be want to look at the bottom line and how much they’re spending in salary, they’d be remiss if they didn’t admit that Jones is a huge catalyst in the Orioles’ success thus far in 2011. Tickets for this weekend’s series against Kansas City are selling at a much higher rate than what we’ve seen in the past. Does one think that’s mere coincidence, or perhaps people are coming out to the yard to see a team that’s in first place? Adam Jones is a big reason for that. The fact that other fan bases (and probably other executives) are licking their chops at the prospect of signing Jones after next year says that they feel the Orioles won’t step up and protect one of their own long-term. Getting Jones locked into a long-term deal would go a long way towards telling fans that the franchise wants to contend moving forward. The prospect of a Jones moon shot leaving the yard off of an Oriole pitcher for the Yankees, Phillies, or even the Nationals is not something that Oriole fans want to visualize.

My personal opinion is that something is going to get done, and perhaps sooner than later. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something happen during the all-star break (even if Jones is an attendee). How much is it going to take? At this point Jones and his agent have some leverage because they would know that the O’s were negotiating based on Jones’ early-season success. I suppose the question truly is how much is that sustained success worth to the team? Let’s put it this way (and this is nothing more than opinion here)…if I were Adam Jones and the Orioles offered me 7 years $140 million, I’d say it was a done deal.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

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