There isn’t a lot that Adam Jones hasn’t done in his 10 years as the cornerstone of the Orioles lineup.
He’s led the team to the playoffs. Two weeks ago, he got the 2018 season off to an auspicious start with a walk-off home run in extra innings to win the team’s Opening Day game.
Jones even helped facilitate a fan’s marriage proposal in Norfolk during the exhibition season, handing over the ring to a nervous fellow, who closed the deal with Jones standing by.
By any metric, Adam Jones’ decade patrolling center field has been a smashing success, coinciding with the franchise’s return to relevance.
At the end of his time here, Jones will be thought of as the first best player to spend his time exclusively in Camden Yards and as one of the 10 most significant Orioles in the 64 seasons since the franchise relocated here from St. Louis.
But when exactly will that term end? That is the big unanswered question surrounding the Orioles for 2018 and beyond.
From all indicators, the Orioles’ brass appears content to let shortstop Manny Machado walk as a free agent after this season.
It appears clear that the team will blanch from the $300 million – or more – that it will take to sign the 25-year-old third baseman-turned shortstop and watch him go, perhaps to the Yankees.
That would just be a repeat for many of the 2000 season when longtime Oriole pitcher Mike Mussina went to the Bronx for bigger bucks than Baltimore was willing to pay.
If you assume that Machado is gone, then signing Jones, who will also be a free agent after 2018, becomes fairly imperative for general manager Dan Duquette and ultimately team owner Peter Angelos, who will have to sign off on any new deal.
Jones signed an $85.5 million contract six years ago, a figure that seems like a bargain given what Machado will likely get and against the $160 million, seven year deal first baseman Chris Davis got two years ago.
At 32 years old, Jones is not likely to get what Davis got. But money may not be the prime consideration for the San Diego native.
Last week, Jones told an MLB.com reporter that the opportunity for the Orioles to win would be a factor in whether he stays or not.
He noted the team’s signing of free agent pitchers Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb as positives, as well as noting that Davis and second baseman Jonathan Schoop will be around as good signs.
But Jones was understandably cagey. Though he has married a Baltimore native, Jones was quick to point out that his family lives on the West Coast.
Beyond what Adam Jones contributes on the field, his value to the community at large cannot be overstated.
Yes, he has given freely of his money and his time, including, in full disclosure, a visit to a sports writing class that I teach.
But Adam Jones is a African-American baseball star, an increasing rarity in this day and age when young black players are avoiding the grand game in alarming numbers.
That counts for something in Baltimore. We’ll know soon enough how much it resonates in the Orioles front office.
And that’s how I see it for this week.