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Adam Jones on 'a big winter'; talking Silver Sluggers and the value of power

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, was mum about his thoughts on what the Orioles need to do this offseason to improve, but he said he’s been sharing his opinion with Orioles manager Buck Showalter since the season ended.

“I’ve been talking to Showalter,” Jones said. “We’ve been talking about the needs for this team.”

Jones, who won his first career Silver Slugger award Wednesday, did say he realizes the bar has been raised for the Orioles, who failed to reach the playoffs this season after their breakout 93-win season in 2012.

“You want to improve,” Jones said. “I think it’s a very big winter. I think our fan base wants to win. I think now you go into it where .500 isn’t good enough anymore, and as a player I like that.”

On Wednesday night, Jones became one of four major leaguers to win both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger this season. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is another; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are the other two. That’s pretty elite company.

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis also won a Silver Slugger, giving the Orioles three winners, the most of any team and the most in club history in a single season.

I’m sure the winners would turn in those awards in a heartbeat for a World Series title, or maybe even a spot in the playoffs, so despite the individual accolades, the Orioles’ postseason award haul has to seem a little fleeting.

Jones said as much Wednesday.

“It’s more hardware for a trophy case, but everybody knows what our goal is as a team,” he said. “It’s cool [to win]. ... It basically shows that we have some good players on our team. That’s what it shows.”

Put the Orioles' struggles with runners in scoring position aside for a moment. Davis, Jones and Hardy all had tremendous offensive seasons. To be named the best offensive player at your position in the AL is no small feat. Manny Machado also has a breakout year offensively in his first full major league season, and while Matt Wieters’ on-base capability was subpar, he led all AL catchers in homers.

I know what you’re saying: all that and no playoffs.

However, power numbers like the ones the Orioles’ top hitters had last season are rare -- and getting rarer.

Just 14 players this past season hit 30 or more home runs. That’s nearly half as many as in 2012, when 27 players reached the 30-homer mark. For comparison, 10 years ago, there were 30 players who hit 30 homers and 10 who hit 40. Only two -- Davis and Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera -- hit 40 this season.

The power shortage can be explained a few ways. Tougher drug testing, more specialized pitching and more elaborate scouting reports all likely play a role. And yes, the game is changing. Scoring runs and home run hitting don’t correlate as much as they did in the past. We know that much from watching the 2013 Orioles.  

Still, the shrinking number of power hitters -- none of those 14 players who hit 30 homers this season is a free agent -- will likely mean that, this offseason, teams in need of power hitting will ante up more money for less power production.

Meanwhile, the Orioles already have it. Out of the 14 players who hit 30 homers, Davis (53) and Jones (33) are the only teammates on the list. Throw in Hardy’s 25 homers and the Orioles are the only team to have three players with 25 or more homers. That’s why the Orioles will at the very least entertain the thought of an extension for Hardy this offseason.

The Orioles have Davis under control for two more seasons, but any arbitration figure for next season -- he will likely garner a 2014 salary in the $9 million to $10 million range -- is a bargain compared to the open market. And if Jones continues to produce through the length of his contract, which goes through the 2018 season, that will also be a bargain comparatively.

So while it might be disappointing that the Orioles didn’t make the playoffs despite several productive offensive seasons, fans have to be optimistic that the club has these players under control for a while in a game where comparable power is increasingly rare and expensive.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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