Orioles center fielder and team leader Adam Jones has said repeatedly that he will make his opinions known to management and ownership on what he would like to see happen this offseason.
On Thursday, while holding court with reporters, he was asked specifically about his feelings toward slugger Chris Davis potentially leaving the team after four-plus seasons as an Oriole.
In his typical style, Jones didn't shy away, calling Davis "probably the highest priority" for the Orioles.
"I love playing with him. He plays a hell of a first base," Jones said of Davis. "I've grown to admire the way he goes about his business and obviously, the production, that's just icing on the cake. To me, I think he's probably the highest priority, but he's earned himself a right to go and hear all 29 other offers."
The 29-year-old Davis is one of six Orioles' pending free agents, joining catcher Matt Wieters, pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O'Day, infielder-outfielder Steve Pearce and outfielder Gerardo Parra.
There's no question that Davis is the big fish of the group. He's leading the majors in home runs with 45 and is among the league leaders in RBIs and slugging percentage. He has hit 45 or more homers in two of his past three seasons, has 159 long balls in his Orioles career, which began in 2011, and 201 overall in his career.
His potential departure could mark the second consecutive season in which an Oriole led the majors in home runs and then immediately left vis free agency. Nelson Cruz went to the Seattle Mariners after slugging 40 homers in 2014.
"It doesn't matter where he plays. It's like Cruz. You play in the Grand Canyon, you're still going to go out there and hit 40. You can't replace 40. That's been proven by this year's offense," Jones said. "You can't replace 40, no matter how you do it. [Davis] likes it here, but it's not about what you like when it comes to business. You have to make a tough decision."
Jones has spent much of the past few seasons hitting in front of or behind Davis, and said he believes part of his success has to do with Davis' presence in those lineups.
"We've been 3-4 tandem, 3-4, 4-5 … for four years," Jones said. "Most of all, we've both fed off each other and had success by feeding off each other. We've both had career years with each other."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was told about Jones' comments regarding Davis during his pregame news conference Thursday. Showalter wouldn't address his specific feelings about bringing back Davis, taking more of an overall approach to the pending free agents. But it's apparent that Showalter also sees the lineup hole that would be created if Davis were elsewhere.
"We'd like to keep everybody, obviously. I think everybody shares that. Let's see where it goes," Showalter said. "We all have our own personal feelings about it. You can probably guess what mine are. Some things you reach for because, let's be frank, it makes your job easier. But you also know what your job description is."
The Orioles briefly discussed an extension with Davis earlier this year, but the sides were not close. For their part, Davis has expressed interest in signing an extension since 2013 and Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has said previously that re-signing Davis is a priority.
But it will come down to how much money Davis can command on the open market — and whether that will blow away any Orioles offer. If recent history is an indicator, with Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller as primary examples in 2014, the Orioles won't meet Davis' market price.
"Markakis had to make a tough decision and do what's best for his family. Chris has got a family. He's got to do what's best for him and his family," Jones said. "Wieters has to do the same thing. O'Day has to do the same thing. These are guys who earned the right to become free agents. And that's the luckiest thing in sports. You earned the right to do whatever you want to do, whatever option you want to pick is at your disposal. Hey, you've got to respect that."
Jones was also asked if he would consider recruiting players to join him in Baltimore this offseason. The specific example mentioned to Jones was Toronto Blue Jays lefty ace David Price, who will command a huge payday. Jones chuckled at the thought.
"He's going to be commanding $25 to $32 million [per year]. I don't foresee that happening in Baltimore. That's reality. And he's definitely earned it," Jones said. "I'd love to play with David Price. He's one of the game's best people and best pitchers, but I'm going to probably be an opponent of his for my entire career."
Ultimately, Jones reiterated his position that he believes the Orioles should have money from their free-agent losses, and therefore should be able to spend on players they want, whether it's their own pending free agents or others.
He wouldn't say whether he has met with team managing partner Peter Angelos or whether a meeting has been set up. But he said he believes his message has been heard — that he wants the Orioles to be competitive in 2016 and beyond.
"They heard my point," he said. "They heard my side, and at the end of the day, all you can do is get your point out, right?"