BALTIMORE — Orioles center fielder Adam Jones predictably downplayed the news of an imminent long-term extension to remain in Baltimore.
The 26-year-old reminded reporters nothing was official, suggesting they talk to his agent Nez Balelo or Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. But as the questions continued, Jones’ excitement began shining through as he appears hours away from not only becoming a rich man but remaining in the place that gave him his first extended opportunity to play in the big leagues.
“It would be cool,” said Jones, who is reportedly on the verge of signing a six-year contract worth upwards of $85 million. “I don’t want to jinx anything.”
Jones confirmed he took a physical on Thursday and was asked how much the team’s 28-17 record and the best start of his career have played a role in stimulating negotiations. The outfielder was unaware whether his agent or the club had initiated the negotiations leading to the rumored deal that would set a club record for the total amount of money offered.
While reminding reporters he could get paid anywhere when becoming a free agent after next season, it appears Jones will refrain from hitting the open market.
“What’s playing a role [in wanting to stay] is just the guys, the team, the hunger that everybody wants,” Jones said. “They want to win. It’s been 14, 15 years of getting your ass kicked here. I’ve been four [years] of getting my ass kicked. It’s not fun.”
The news wasn’t lost in the Baltimore clubhouse on Friday as the Orioles had lifted spirits despite losing three of their last four games.
The long-term commitment to Jones sends the message to the rest of the team’s young players that the organization intends to reward its young players for performing by investing significant money in them.
“He’s definitely a piece that you want to keep around for a long time,” right fielder Nick Markakis said. “I’ve been playing with Jonesy for a little while now, and he brings a lot to team and he brings a lot to the table. Up and down, he’s got it all.”
Jones was asked whether he had spoken with owner Peter Angelos about a contract, admitting that he had not. However, the outfielder expressed a desire to communicate with the 82-year-old to exchange their visions for the organization. Angelos is rarely around the club and most players have never even met the owner.
“[I] really do want to talk to him about a lot of different things that I have ideas of,” Jones said. “See what is the goal. What do we want to do here? If I’m a part of it, I’m a part of it. We’re adults, and I do want to meet with him.”
Now that Jones appears to be remaining in Baltimore for the foreseeable future, many have already turned their attention to catcher Matt Wieters, who is not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2015 season and is represented by agent Scott Boras.
Wieters was asked whether he had begun thinking about his own future with Jones’ deal now all but done, but the Baltimore catcher has more pressing issues on his mind despite expressing happiness for his teammate.
“I’m not worried about [my contract] now,” Wieters said. “I’m happy for Adam when it gets done, but at the same time, we’re worried about playing right now.”
With the Orioles off to their best start since 2005, optimism is abundant around town and Jones has taken a few opportunities to experience that recently. The enthusiasm reminds him of the Orioles’ winning past and why he wants to be a part of the effort to restore that tradition.
“It’s a winner’s city,” Jones said. “I would love to be in the middle of it as opposed to going somewhere else and not being really mine.”
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