The one question left to answer in the midst of the Orioles’ dynamic rebuilding effort hangs over the club like a thunderhead.
What is Adam Jones still doing on this team?
The short answer is he decided he wasn’t going to be sent packing like some extra baggage, which means he is going to stick around and be extra baggage with the Orioles.
It’s a strange situation, but it would not be fair to cast Jones as a villain who is standing in the way of a brighter future for the team he helped return to prominence after he arrived here in 2008 to assist in the Orioles’ last major roster renovation.
The 33-year-old Jones, who defended his decision to veto a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies after Tuesday night’s loss to the New York Yankees, was correct when he pointed out he was exercising a collectively bargained right that was hard earned by players who came before him. He also earned that right himself by being a faithful and productive player for the Orioles for more than a decade.
“I made the decision, you all didn’t,” he said Tuesday night. “This is my decision, this is my life. I'm not going around dictating other people’s lives. So why do they do that with us? No one is going to tell me what to do. I earned every single bit of it. People before me fought vigorously, tirelessly to get rights like this. And I can invoke them.”
Still, it’s hard for anyone besides Jones and his family to understand why he wouldn’t want to move just an hour or so up I-95 to escape this dismal Orioles season and play the next two months for a team that has a good chance to make the playoffs.
It certainly appears that he was just being stubborn, that he wasn’t going to be pushed around at the point in his career when he was finally going to have real control over his destiny. But it can’t be that simple, can it?
Jones actually wants to stay in Baltimore. His wife is from here and most of his adult life has been spent with the Orioles, though he maintains households both in the Baltimore area and near where he grew up in San Diego.
He has been hinting at a contract extension for the past couple of years and made a public attempt to leverage his pending free agency in January when he said at FanFest that he was excited about the opportunity to test the free-agent market this winter.
He would have remained eligible for that opportunity regardless of where he spends the remainder of this season, but it was clear he was negotiating with the Orioles on a passive-aggressive level and it didn’t work.
Now, barring a waiver deal before Aug. 31, he’ll spend the rest of the season as the de facto captain of a team that is headed in one direction while he is probably headed in another.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette seemed adamant about that when he was grilled on the subject of Jones’ future during his news conference to announce the Brad Brach trade Sunday. He stopped short of saying unequivocally that Jones would not be in an Orioles uniform next year, but there didn’t seem to be much doubt in his tone.
Duquette said again Tuesday that he doesn’t know if Jones will be back, and appeared to leave the door to his return next year open a bit wider than it seemed to be Sunday.
If so, then Jones might just be playing the long game here, sticking around to remind everyone how important he is to the organization and the city, and hoping someone in ownership realizes that he could actually help with the rebuilding project.
There’s a case to be made that the Orioles need the longtime face of the franchise to keep fans engaged while the team goes through what figures to be a painful transition. Jones is a pro who’s going to play hard no matter where the Orioles are in the standings.
Clearly, his relationship with the front office is strained at the moment, but there’s no guarantee this front office will be in place three months from now.
So, it might be premature to count Jones out of Baltimore just yet.