From listening to Adam Jones, it sure does sound as if the Orioles’ current longest-tenured player is preparing for the possibility of wearing a new uniform within the next week.
With franchise cornerstones Manny Machado and Zach Britton having already been traded to contenders, Jones is a pending free agent that could be moved. The Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies have all expressed interest in Jones, according to an industry source.
The Orioles are indeed looking to move Jones before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline to remain consistent with the approach of rebuilding the club, according to the source. But Jones, unlike Machado and Britton, can decide whether to approve a trade because of his service time.
Jones said Thursday he hasn’t yet been approached by the Orioles front office about a potential move, but he said he’s expecting it.
“Not yet,” Jones said. “But I think there’s definitely going to be some discussions soon because I guess I’m next in line to get off the books.
“They can say whatever they want and propose whatever they want, but I can be like, ‘Ehh you know what? That doesn’t work for me.’ But it’s interesting. We shall see what happens. I don’t know what the plan is here for the future or if I’m even part of it. Let’s see what interest can be generated and see how my representation and my family feel about something that could happen.”
Jones compared this time to the first day of school, “when you wear that outfit and you see what interest everybody has in you — who's flirting with you and whatnot.”
But this is uncharted territory for Jones. For the first time in his career, he thinks back to his first full season with the Orioles in 2008 and wonders what veterans such as Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar were thinking while playing for a team in transition.
“It’s pretty humbling to see that other teams have interest in my services, either with the on-field play, the leadership, the tough mindset,” Jones said. “Show up every day, the work mentality that I might have. To not wear black and orange, I’ve donned it for 11 years, so it would be different. It’s business. You’ve got to put [the uniform] on if another team is calling you, another team is paying you. You do what you’ve got to do.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said any contender would benefit from having Jones, and that while this is a new process for the veteran, he’s been around long enough to know how to handle it.
“I think Adam would be good in any situation,” Showalter said. “Adam’s very adaptable. Nobody wants to win more than him. As far as talking to him, you can’t not talk to Adam. Adam’s an engaging guy. We actually talked about it last night, talked to him on the plane, talked to him all the time. He knows. Adam’s not a guy that really needs a lot of advice. He’s got it wired. He’s been doing this a long time. He knows. He knows the arteries of decisions, I call them.
“You’ve got to think about all the things it means. I think Adam’s a pretty realistic guy. But also, the right kind of stubborn. The right kind. He’ll stand up for what he thinks is right. We’ll see. I guarantee if I was a club in contention, I’d be wanting an Adam Jones on my club.”
For now, Jones can only shrug about his future. He sat at his locker in Sarasota, Fla., five months ago and said he wanted to win a ring. He could be closer in a matter of days if he decides to approve a trade. It might mean moving to a corner outfield spot, which Jones said he’d be open to.
“If the scenario is right, I want to win, I want to play ball,” Jones said. “You look at these kind of scenarios, you look at what’s best fit for you and when all the information comes, I’ll need more information, I’ll be able to make a better judgment decision based on that information. But as of now, I don’t have any information or what anybody wants to do.”
Jones knows the future is coming, but he just doesn’t know whether he will be a part of it. If the Orioles plan to have an experienced veteran to build a young team around, Jones could fill that role. He hears the footsteps of outfield prospects such as Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart, who could both be added to the major league roster in the coming weeks. Jones said he expects those players to be called up as part of the team’s rebuild.
Asked whether he would be willing to move from center field to give prospects a chance there, Jones said where they play might not be as important as getting big league at-bats.
“That would be another discussion to have,” Jones said. “With the season we’re having, these young guys need to be called up. Mullins, Stewart need to be called up. I think the most important thing is to get them at-bats. It’s not positioning, it’s at-bats. One of the hardest things to do in this game is to hit. [On] defense, Mullins and Stewart will be fine. … The biggest test to see if they can play is whether they can hit at this level. … They just need the actual at-bats against tough guys, especially the next two months. This division is going to be tougher.”
Jones’ future with the Orioles is as uncertain as it’s ever been since he arrived in Baltimore. He was asked Thursday whether he wants to remain with the Orioles after this season, if that door was opened, but Jones made it known he’s not interested in playing the “if” game.
“I don’t like living in ifs,” Jones said. “Ifs don’t pay the bills. Exacts pay the bills. I can’t really live in ifs. … Is the door open? You can want all you want. A lot of people can want things, but if that door’s not open, all you can do is sit outside and knock. Who knows?”