Remember back in May when the Baltimore Orioles signed Adam Jones to a new contract to the tune of six years, $85.5 million? At the time of course, many fans thought that might be the highlight of a season in which the team was supposed to lose 100 games. However that aside, there were many opinions at the time as to whether or not this was a good move for the Orioles. Obviously with Jones coming off of a career year and the franchise having qualified for postseason play for the first time in 15 years, at the moment it looks like a great deal. But…is it?
Many people felt that the Orioles overpaid for Jones. The terms of the deal are pretty decent if you ask me. However that’s certainly a matter of opinion. First off, this is a franchise that’s had a reputation for being frugal in the past. The Orioles and owner Peter Angelos really stepped up to the plate in this case to keep a fan favorite in Baltimore for a long time. However again let’s assume that you feel the Orioles overpaid or spent their money unwisely. Perhaps that’s exactly what needs to happen for this franchise to truly make it over the hump. (And by that I mean to be competitive year in and year out, not necessarily win a title every year.) Other players on the Orioles (such as Matt Wieters) will then see that the Orioles were willing to pay for Adam Jones, and that will send a message that odds are they’ll do the same for them. Furthermore, free agents can now look at Baltimore as a place where upper management’s committed to winning, and it might come across as a better place to consider playing.
However in my opinion I don’t think that they did overpay for Adam Jones. Look at it from the perspective of what could have happened (or more like what would have happened) had the Orioles not signed him. All things being the same, Jones still has a career year and the Birds still go to the playoffs. Orioles fans have the same rosy feeling going into the off season that they have now, that is until Dan Duquette takes Jones to arbitration next spring. Whether or not they decide on a contract or the arbitrator decides is almost irrelevant; Jones is already thinking that perhaps he doesn’t want to do business with this organization given that they seem to be pinching pennies. The mere threat of taking a guy coming off of a career year such as Adam Jones to arbitration is almost a slap in the face.
So Jones is either traded mid-season next year, or he hits the free agent market after the season. At that point the ball would still be in the Orioles’ court…however it would also be in the court of every other franchise in the league. Jones is from San Diego, and for quite some time the conventional wisdom was that he would probably look to sign with a team out west (the Padres or someone else) if he hit the open market. Either that, or here’s a real nightmare scenario for Orioles fans; the Boston Red Sox appear to be in full rebuild mode right now. Would an all-star and gold glover such as Adam Jones not look good hitting in Fenway Park from Boston’s perspective? That would pit Jones against the Orioles 18-19 times a year.
What I’ve outlined above is an “alternate-reality” of sorts. Obviously there’s every chance that the Orioles could have signed Jones off of the free agent market next year, however at that point the price would probably be higher for the Orioles than anyone else given that they had every opportunity to sign him while he was under team control previously. Either way, odds are Adam Jones isn’t an Oriole after 2013 if anything like the above-mentioned scenario had been allowed to play out. If you do believe that the O’s overpaid for Adam Jones, I would at the very least hope that you would agree that he should be on the team. So I ask you, is it better to sit there and complain about how much he’s making and arguing that his production should be more, or to have lost the guy’s services all together?
Speaking for myself, when the Orioles traded for Adam Jones I likened it to the trade that brought Frank Robinson to the Orioles. I suppose that the difference is that Robinson was already a known commodity and Jones was a potential “nugget” around which to build. However I think that when all is said and done the trade that brought Jones to Baltimore might end up being a momentum-swinger for the Orioles, just as the Robinson trade was. It might well be a moment to which we point in the future and say “this was the beginning of something great.” Time will tell however, and the Orioles and Adam Jones have a lot of it that will be spent together!