SARASOTA, Fla. – Adam Jones is in a unique position this season. He’s the Oriole with the most service time, and he could test the free agent market for the first time.
Jones is beginning his 11th season with the Orioles, and while the center fielder who has accumulated three Gold Gloves to go along with his three All-Star Game appearances, is happy about his accomplishments, there's something more important to him.
"This is my career. This is not the fans' career, so I’m going to make the best decision for myself and going forward," Jones said. "I want to win. It's not about money. It's winning. I've got a lot of friends with rings, hardware…I’ve got a bunch of friends with rings and I ain't got no ring, so I want to play for something."
Jones signed a six-year, $85.5 million contract extension in May 2012, and since then the Orioles have qualified for the postseason three times before falling back last season.
Along with Jones, shortstop Manny Machado and relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton are eligible for free agency this fall. Jones thinks that won’t matter.
"Once you come in here and once it starts, all of that other contract stuff and last year, all that stuff goes out the window," Jones said.
"Obviously it’s on the minds of people because it's their lives but myself, Zach, Manny, Brad, we're worried about '18. We are worried about getting healthy through spring training and doing something between those lines once March 29 starts. We're not worried about the future because we can’t control that part."
In the past, Jones has freely commented on the team, and has lobbied for additions. Beyond saying that he thought the signing of starter Andrew Cashner was a good idea, he's mostly keeping away from that now.
"I always will take the guys in my clubhouse, on my team over anybody," Jones said. "Me saying that means nothing. Now we have to go do. It’s not rocket science. We do need pitchers."
When the Orioles gather for their team meeting on Feb. 18, manager Buck Showalter has cautioned, it’s not going to be all positives.
"This is not going to be a celebration of the 2017 season, trust me," Showalter said. "If people have thin skin, there’s going to be a problem. This is not a place for thin-skinned people."
Showalter’s rhetoric doesn’t bother Jones. It resonates with him.
"This is professional baseball. It's not a daycare," Jones said. "We’re here for one reason. He’s not my father, he's not my uncle. He’s my manager. Simple as that. We're a team. We’re here for one reason and one reason only. And if you’re not here for that, bye. That's the message. Thick skin, that's the rhetoric, but his message is he’s here to win. Pretty simple."
Jones has long been a fan favorite in Baltimore, and knows the fans have been impatient with the team.
“Well they trust me. I think. I don't know,” Jones said. “I go out and play hard. I can't control what other people think. You can tweet out the sky is blue. Someone is going to say it's cloudy. Just go with the punches. If I play hard, what excuse is someone going to have for me? None?
"So if you control yourself and you play hard, play the game with respect, all that other stuff goes to the wayside. The fans in Baltimore know I’m going to give everything I’ve got every day. It may not look pretty. Some days it will, but I’m going to give it all I’ve got. And I think that’s just what they’ve seen from me since I’ve been traded over here."
Jones came to Baltimore from the Seattle Mariners in Feb. 2008, and knows it could be his final season with the Orioles.
"I think we want to win. I want to win," Jones said. "That's probably the highest on my priority list. It’s not money, it’s winning, because getting older. Obviously, I want to play until I’m 40…I want to win. And winning is, you’ve seen the last five or six years. Last year obviously wasn’t that fun, but the previous five years were fun because we were winning and going forward that’s all I want is to be in a position to win, and if I’m not, then I have to find a position to win."