Adam Jones was in a talkative mood, even though he tried hard to talk around one particular subject.
He’s entering the final year of his contract with the Orioles and he’s not alone, but just about every time he was asked about his future with the team during his media session at FanFest on Saturday, he answered pretty much the same way: “Ask Mr. Duquette.”
The rub here is that there have been no substantial discussions about a contract extension or the possibility of Jones finishing his career in Baltimore, where he has been the de facto team captain throughout the club’s recent — and recently interrupted — competitive renaissance.
Jones, 32, has been the face of the Orioles almost since he arrived as a 22-year-old in the huge 2008 trade with the Seattle Mariners that laid the foundation for the team’s turnaround after 14 straight losing seasons.
Now, he seems like an afterthought in an offseason that has been focused almost entirely on the future of Manny Machado.
“Not up to me,’’ was how Jones answered queries on this subject late in the 2017 season, and it seemed clear that the uncertainty was a source of some frustration. On Saturday, he simply deferred to executive vice president Dan Duquette, who seldom comments on contract negotiations.
Q: If the Orioles wanted to talk about an extension …
A: “They haven’t, so it’s hard to speak in hypotheticals.”
Q: How much do you want to finish your career here?
A: “Ask Mr. Duquette.”
Duquette doesn’t dispute any of this. Reached by phone after FanFest, Duquette basically confirmed that there have been no significant negotiations toward a new deal with Jones or anyone else in the same situation.
“That’s accurate,” Duquette said. “His agent has expressed an interest in talking about Adam’s future. That’s where it’s at. The agent has reached out to the club. The organization has some big decisions to make over the next year and Adam is one of them, obviously.”
So, nothing’s changed?
That might seem obvious, but the tone certainly is different. Jones, who seemed put off by questions like that four months ago, was actually quite upbeat while he was trying not to answer them this time, which leaves the door open wide enough to believe he’s preparing to go out of it.
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When he did become more effusive about his situation Saturday, it was to talk in veiled terms about the possibility that his future might be somewhere else.
“It’s a business,” Jones said. “There have been different situations in different years that have been handled differently and I haven’t seen that. So, I just have to have a clear and open mind about this situation and it’s not just my decision. It’s a family decision. But most importantly, it’s about winning.”
Jones even acknowledged that he was focused on playing as many games as he can this season because it is his “walk” year and he wants to make sure he’s positioned well if the Orioles don’t make an effort to bring him back.
“I’m in the free-agent year,” he said. “I have to show all I can do. I’ve got to play every day. That’s the goal.”
Jones said he’s actually excited about the competitive challenge of marketing himself to the rest of the league.
“Yeah, I think the coolest part and sometimes the hardest part about free agency that I’ve seen from afar and see the people that want you and — not necessarily the people that don’t want you, but just don’t need you,” Jones said. “You just get to see the general interest around the game.”
That’s about as much public negotiating as he was going to do, but you get the idea. He’s finally at peace with the process, because the time is coming when his future will no longer be out of his control.