Adam Jones talks about the age and stabilty of the Baltimore Orioles team. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)
At the end of last season, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones made it clear he wanted to meet with the team's managing partner, Peter G. Angelos, to emphasize how important it would be to retain the club's key free agents during the offseason.
"You see the result of that," Jones said Wednesday as he held court with reporters after the Orioles' first full-squad workout of the spring.
Since Jones met with Angelos, the Orioles have committed about $270 million through free agency, retaining first baseman Chris Davis, setup man Darren O'Day and catcher Matt Wieters, and adding South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, as well as agreeing to pending contracts with right-hander Yovani Gallardo and outfielder Dexter Fowler.
So it appears Jones' offseason dinner with Angelos served its purpose.
"All you can do is ask," Jones said. "As a player, you want what you want. Trust me, there are tons of guys I want on my team. I love every guy on my team now. ... Everybody always wants more and more. It's human nature. You want more. But my message to the front office was to keep the core intact. We have a good core.
"It's a process. First of all, I'm glad we got O'Day and Davis back. Those were the two most important guys. I don't know about the uncertainty about Gallardo, but I know we've got Fowler, so I think we're just constantly improving and not just improving on the field but mentally. ... Fowler has [six] years, Gallardo has eight years [of] service time. That adds a lot of experience. Both of them have been in the postseason, been in big games, big moments. So we want to have them do it with us."
After winning the American League East in 2014, the Orioles let veterans Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz leave through free agency. But this time, the Orioles dedicated most of the offseason to keeping their key players.
Markakis was a fixture in right field. Last season, 11 players started in right. Jones is excited about Fowler's pending arrival.
"It's about having someone being there every day," Jones said. "You look at my first seven years and it was me and [Markakis] and then the left fielder. It just changed. It was a tough adjustment, but it was an adjustment I had to make. It's not like the game is going to slow down or stop because I don't have Nick Markakis next to me in right field. It was just an adjustment I had to make, and now with Fowler, someone who has proved he can play 150-plus games in a season, it just gives us stability. And he can play center field."
When you play for Orioles manager Buck Showalter, "you know you're going to have five to seven guys that play 150 or at least 140 [games]," Jones said.
Jones dismissed the notion that with Markakis gone, he had to cover more ground last season. Jones was off to perhaps his finest defensive season before nagging injuries took a toll late in the year. His 137 games played in 2015 were his fewest since 2009 as he battled shoulder, back and ankle injuries. The addition of Fowler, who has spent his entire major league career as a center fielder, gives the team another option there. Showalter said he'd like to give Jones, who averaged 156 games the five seasons before last, more days off so he can remain fresh.
With reserve outfielder David Lough gone in free agency, "you've got a 'what if' in center field," Showalter said. He said having someone who's played center field in right field could allow Jones to shade more toward left-center. "There's a lot of things you think about, and there's some unknown about what kind of defender Kim will be if he makes our club."
Kim signed a two-year, $7 million deal this offseason to project as the Orioles' starting left fielder after being one of the top players in South Korea's professional league for the past decade, but will have to adjust to the major league game. Jones said he has been impressed with what he has seen from Kim so far.
"He knows he was a ... good player over there," Jones said. "Coming here is going to be an adjustment for him. … As long as you can come and bring the energy, we're good. I think he's going to be a good player here. Over there, he's the man. Here, he doesn't have to be the man. We have some guys like that. If he just comes in and does his job, plays some good defense, don't [anger outfield coach] Wayne Kirby, I think he'll be pretty good."
Now that the team's core is back — complemented by free-agent additions — Jones, who is under club control for the next three seasons, said this is the Orioles' time to shine.
"If you look at it, a lot of the ages are that 25 to 32 range," Jones said. "These are the years we need to do something. We have a great mix of the young talent with the veteran talent, and the young talent acts like veteran talent.
"I just think this is a good time for us. We have a good team. We just need to get through this camp, play good ball in spring training, get through the things that we need to get to, and knock on wood, the season just goes the way it did in 2014."