Orioles' Adam Jones peaking at the plate as uncertainty over future mounts: 'I hold the cards'

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has been one of the team's few constants, at least offensively, in a wildly inconsistent season for the team as a whole. He tries not to look at it this way, but it couldn't be happening at a better time for him.

Jones entered Thursday night batting .352 with an .870 OPS and four extra-base hits in June, representing his highest average in any month since April 2015, and coming as the Orioles are trying to wean themselves off the all-or-nothing approach that helped dig them into the hole they're in.

But it also comes as Jones and a host of other Orioles stars who are in their last seasons of club control are being evaluated for trades.

"It doesn't bother me, man," Jones said. "I can't let it bother me. I'm in a different part of my life to where I'm not anticipating a $150 million, $200 million, $300 million offer this offseason. I'm more just, 'Let me go be a pro, do what I do best,' and that's play the game hard and live with the result. All the other stuff, all the projections and this and that, that's all whatever.

"I do know that we've seen over the last few years, as you get older, they value you less and less and less. What I'm trying to do is maintain my value and continue the path that I've been on of consistency and performing year-in and year-out. I'm just basically doing me, and not worrying about everybody else."

Jones, who by virtue of having 10 years of major league service time, including five consecutive years with his current club, can veto any trade, said he hasn't been approached by the organization about whether he'd accept a trade.

"I hold all the cards there," Jones said.

Asked what would go into his decision, he couldn't say.

"I've never been in that situation," he said. "I can't speak on speculation, but I don't know how I would handle it, because I've never been in it. I just don't know."

Jones said during spring training he wouldn't negotiate a contract extension once the season began, either. The Orioles haven’t signed an extension with any of their players before they became free agents for the first time since Jones’ six-year deal in 2012.

At least at the plate, Jones is making himself quite an attractive option for this year and going forward. His hot June has brought his season line to .296/.320/.460 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs, putting him on pace for 23 home runs, just off the rate required for his eighth straight season of 25 home runs or more.

It puts Jones in position to be an attractive option for a team looking for a veteran outfield bat at the trade deadline, with Jones' consistent effort and drive to win only adding to what he offers at the plate.

There will certainly be questions about his position as a center fielder both for a new club and for whichever team signs him in free agency, though. Asked whether his hot bat or some of the plays he hasn't come up with in recent weeks stand out more to Jones, he decided to address the defense.

Among prominent defensive metrics like FanGraphs' defensive runs saved (-17) and UZR/150 (-7.8), plus BaseballSavant.com's Runs Above Average (-7), he rates second-to-last, last, and last among qualifying center fielders. There have been plays over the past few weeks that players of Jones' caliber can be expected to make, and he said that's part of what's pushing him to get back to that level. His last Gold Glove award came in 2014.

"Here's the thing — it's like the Manny [Machado] effect," Jones said. "He'll make a play and you'll be shocked, like, 'I've never seen that play.' But he'll do it with the baby face that he does it with and you say the word effortless, easy. Then, he'll make an error, same face. You use the words lazy, sluggish, doesn't care.

"I can't say we've spoiled but I get it — once you get hardware, you're expected to make certain plays, and that just comes with the territory. It's good that people still hold me to a high standard. I can cuss them out, but no. It's good that people hold me to a high standard on everything. That's what keeps me going, that I'm held to a high standard every single day — not just by the fans and all that stuff — but by my family, by my team, by my peers. They hold me to a higher standard. That's why I play the game hard, because they hold me to a high standard."

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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