Sarasota, Fla. — It was at Orioles FanFest 14 months ago that Adam Jones first publicly broached the subject of free agency. He said he was excited about the possibility, but everyone viewed his comments as little more than a negotiating ploy.
Surely, Jones wanted to stay in Baltimore and the Orioles would find a way to keep him here. He had meant way too much to the team and Baltimore to just let him wander off into the sunset of his career.
Of course, that was before the Orioles fell off the edge of the baseball world and the face of the franchise suddenly became too much of a luxury, regardless of how much he contributed to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and to the revival of the O’s franchise over the past decade.
It was also before he turned down a midseason trade to jump into a playoff race and completed one of the least productive of his 11 full seasons in the major leagues.
Still, a one-year deal worth $3 million?
That’s what he reportedly accepted from the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend to get back on the field before the clock ran out on an opportunity to start the 2019 season anywhere close to on time.
He spent the whole offseason waiting for the phone to ring, but the Orioles didn’t call and — by some accounts — nobody else did either. Jones hasn’t spoken publicly about his situation, but friends insist that this was not a case of a proud player holding out for too much money.
It was more a case of the free-agent market remaining in vapor lock while Mid-Atlantic millennial superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper waited to see which one of them would get the biggest free-agent contract in the history of professional team sports.
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Jones also found himself the poster child for a blooming dispute between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association over the apparent effort by ownership the past few years to accelerate the promotion of young players at the expense of highly compensated veterans.
So, free agency didn’t turn out to be exciting at all. The only call that Jones received before training camps opened was a wake-up call to tell him that he was dangerously close to being pushed into retirement..
The one-year deal will give him another shot at free agency next November, but that will only matter if he can rise up from last year’s disappointing performance and re-establish himself as a consistently productive corner outfielder.
Though it was obvious long ago that the Orioles were not going to make any effort to bring him back, the fans — and some teammates — held out hope that new general manager Mike Elias would see some value in having another quality veteran in the clubhouse to help mentor new center fielder Cedric Mullins and the other promising outfielders rising out of the minor league system.
It was a nice thought, but Elias was not brought here to hang on to the vestiges of the past., He was hired to rebuild the organization from the bottom up and show the fans that a new day is coming. The only holdover veterans were the guys with guaranteed contracts, and even a couple of those might be on their way elsewhere by midseason.
Jones was a great Oriole and he still is a great citizen of Baltimore. It was time to let him go and now it’s time to wish him well in the National League.
Thanks, No. 10, for the memories.