On the threshold of becoming the highest-paid player in the history of the Orioles, center fielder Adam Jones stood at his locker Friday and said he isn't thinking about a contract extension until it becomes official.
"Not the slightest [bit] antsy," said Jones, who is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season. "It's an exciting moment, humbling. But if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm not going to be disappointed. If it does, it was meant to be.
Jones' agent, Nez Balelo, and Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette have been negotiating an extension believed to be for six years and worth roughly $85 million. Both sides said the deal was not yet completed — though the fans at Camden Yards weren't worried about such technicalities, giving Jones a rousing ovation when he stepped to the plate in the first inning Friday
"There's not a lot I can say about it except that I am encouraged by the fact that Adam wants to stay in Baltimore," Duquette said. "We certainly would like him to stay in Baltimore. Hopefully, we can work something out here in the short term.
On Thursday's off day, Jones underwent a physical at Bayview Medical Center — team protocol before signing a player to a long-term deal. Balelo, who could not be reached for comment, was in Baltimore for the past few days, although he was scheduled to fly out Friday, Jones said
The 26-year-old Jones, who has been with the Orioles since coming over from Seattle in the Erik Bedard deal in 2008, is arguably the club's best and most popular player. Heading into Friday, he was second in the American League in home runs (14) and total bases (110)
Duquette has said repeatedly that he does not like to discuss contracts in-season, but the start Jones is having altered that philosophy.
"My choice is not to talk about contracts during the season. But this is a unique case," Duquette said. "It's Adam Jones, really. It's about Adam Jones."
If completed, the extension will shatter the six-year, $72 million, club-record deal given to free agent and former MVP Miguel Tejada before the 2004 season. It will surpass right fielder Nick Markakis' record extension in 2009 of six years and $66.1 million. And it will be more annually than the ill-fated Albert Belle contract of five years, $65 million before the 1999 season.
"I've heard length, haven't heard dollars. Don't really care to hear it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That's a heck of a commitment by our ownership, which is a commitment to our fans, too. We'll see. I'm not going to break it down. I'll just be excited to write his name in the lineup."
Jones said he would like to see a core group of players come together in Baltimore the way the New York Yankees did in the 1990s. And at least one of his teammates sees this potential move as a signal that the club is looking to build its core.
"I think it does [send that message]," said catcher Matt Wieters. "Any time you can lock up your players that way, you feel like this is a group of guys that can make a run at winning. That's a good message to send to the team."
Jones said the Orioles' direction plays a part in his decision to want to stay in Baltimore. He has spoken to Showalter and also would like to talk to managing partner Peter Angelos.
"I have not. I want to, though," Jones said about meeting with Angelos. "I really do want to talk to him about a lot of things that I have ideas of. 'What's the goal? What are we going to do here?' If I'm a part of it, I'm a part of it. If not … I'm a grown man. It's a business."
Jones said he spent part of Thursday in a boat docked near Dundalk, and people kept telling him how much they appreciated these Orioles and his effort.
"This town is [about] winning. It's a winners' city," Jones said. "And I think I'd love to be in the middle of it as opposed to going somewhere else and it not really being mine."
In Jones' four previous seasons in Baltimore, the Orioles have finished last in the American League East. They haven't had a winning record since 1997.
"We want to win. It's been 14-15 years of getting your [butt] kicked here," Jones said. "I've been [here] four [years] getting my [butt] kicked. It's not fun."