02/14/12 10:02 PM EST
Orioles reach deal with Jones, avoid arbitration
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
The 26-year-old Jones -- named the Most Valuable Oriole in 2011 -- will earn a base salary of $6.15 million, with $50,000 in performance-based bonuses, a figure that is just shy of the midpoint between the two sides. The O's originally offered $5 million, while Jones' camp at CAA Sports countered with $7.4 million.
"He was our player of the year last year," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of Jones, who set new career highs in games played (151), doubles (26), home runs (25), RBIs (83) and stolen bases (12). "He's a dependable player and we're glad to have him."
How long the Orioles will have Jones, now that his 2012 salary has been agreed on, remains the biggest question for an organization mired in a stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
Duquette has said all offseason that the primary focus was on what the organization would pay Jones in 2012. Although Duquette reiterated Tuesday that there remains a possibility of the two sides reaching a long-term deal in the future, it probably won't be any time soon.
"I wouldn't revisit it during the season," Duquette said of Jones' contractual status, which has him slated to be a free agent after 2013. "We're glad we have a mutual agreement this year, and then we can take a little bit longer and more detailed look at a future contract. But it was important for the team to get a deal done this year.
"I think [negotiating during the season] is a distraction to the player and the team. I think everybody's interest is better served by putting the interest of the team first."
Jones, who was prepared to fly to Florida on Wednesday, was grateful that the deal was struck, as he will now be able to attend his nephew's sixth birthday party on the West Coast instead. Asked again Tuesday night if he would be open to signing long term with Baltimore, Jones reiterated that those discussions have to be started by the Orioles.
"It's on them, it's not on me; I just need to go play," Jones said, dismissing any rumblings that he wouldn't be open to staying in Baltimore.
"I guess I need to learn how to handle all that speculation now. But only the people closest to me know how I feel about everything."
Considered one of the game's best young outfielders, Jones has also dealt with a fair amount of trade talk this offseason, another foreign situation and one that won't be going away with his new one-year deal.
A fierce competitor and one of the most outspoken and outgoing Orioles players, Jones hit .280 with a .319 on-base percentage and a .466 slugging percentage last season, and he figures to be in the middle of the lineup this year along with catcher Matt Wieters.
"I don't just go out there to play, and say 'I play in the Majors,'" Jones said. "I mean, yeah it's cool, I'm in the Majors. But while I'm in the Majors, I want to win while I'm here. If we want to build a winning team, let's go. I'm all for it."
With Jones agreeing to terms, the O's have no remaining arbitration-eligible players.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.