The Baltimore Orioles recently avoided going to an arbitration hearing by signing Adam Jones to a one year, $6.5 million contract, but there are still rumblings about a long-term deal being in play. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Orioles have started to explore the possibility of signing Jones to a long-term deal, as well they should. Jones currently has one more year of arbitration left before becoming a free agent, and considering that he’s a young +2 to +3 win player with the upside for more, he’s the sort of player the Orioles should be hoping to build around.
Rosenthal reports that Jones wants at least a five-year extension, so that got me curious: what would a five-year extension for Jones look like? Are there any players in a similar situation to him that have signed extensions recently?
As it turns out, Jones’ situation is a bit unique. There aren’t many offensive players that have signed a contract extension with two years of team control remaining; Ryan Howard and Troy Tulowitzki are the only players coming up, and for obvious reasons, neither of them is a good comp for Jones. So instead, let’s turn out attention to outfielders that have A) signed extensions, and B) followed a similar path as Jones through arbitration thus far.
*Numbers presented are in millions of dollars.
*Uggla was included since he was one of the few players to sign a contract extension before his Arb3 season.
It’s important to note that before signing their extensions, almost all of these players had put up at least one season that was better than anything Adam Jones has done to date. Nick Markakis signed his deal after putting up a+6 win season in 2008; Corey Hart had shown flashes of +4 win ability; Justin Morneau had already posted a +4 win year; and Alex Rios looked like a solid +3 to +5 win player still on the rise. The lone exception to this trend was Chris Young, who signed his contract extension early — he was still one year away from arbitration — after posting a +2.6 win season at the age of 24.
So while Jones has tracked many of these players through arbitration, he may have a difficult time arguing to the Orioles that he deserves as much on the tail-end of an extension as players like Morneau, Markakis, and Uggla. As Dave Cameron pointed out earlier this off-season, he has tremendous upside and his young career profile is reminiscent of players like Hart and Morneau. But since he still hasn’t been able to convert that potential into more on-the-field production, he can’t expect the Orioles to break the bank on him.
If I was the Orioles, I’d use Markakis’s deal as a general framework for an extension with Jones, but look to shave off some money and structure the tail-end similar to Alex Rios’s deal. At $11-13 million, the Orioles would be paying Jones a little bit less than market-rate if he remains at a +2.5 win level, and they would get themselves a bargain if Jones ever broke out. Of course, they would also take on some risk in case Jones regresses, but considering his sustained success at the majors thus far, he seems like a relatively safe bet.
Would this sort of a deal be attractive enough to keep Jones from pushing through to free agency? That’s impossible for us to say, but the Orioles should at least try because he likely won’t get any easier to convince going forward.
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