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Not so fast - Jones extension not guaranteed this off-season

Among the concerns Orioles’ fans may now have about the beginning of the 2010 season – closer issues, an ineffective offense, and a manager whose job is in the balance – the contract status of Adam Jones didn’t figure to be one of them. But after comments Sunday by Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, there’s no guarantee Adam Jones will be signed to a long-term extension this winter.

Despite an All-Star appearance last year and a Gold Glove award on Jones’ resume, MacPhail made it plain he wants more from the young outfielder before he commits to a deal with Jones this off-season. While explaining his philosophy on locking up players, he mentioned Jones’ situation, Jones' struggles at the end of last year, and his desire to see more results. (Andy MacPhail presser mp3 file)

"I think when you commit is somewhat a function of how much revenue, how much resources, your franchise has. To me, the time to commit is 3-plus, like we did with Nick, if that’s the time you want to go. The deals don’t look as good because you’re dealing with arbitration-eligible numbers, the other (Tampa Bay-type) deals always look better,  because they include a couple of years where the guy can’t make any dough, so, gee, that looks like a better deal. 

"But to me, unless you’re really convinced you have a… what it is you really have..for instance, in Adam’s case, you know we saw him play great for the first half last year, tail off then get hurt. So, uh, I personally am not 100% sure. I want to watch him play as long as I can. For this franchise…the Yankees can wait until the end because they can out-bid anybody. Other clubs, like when I was with the Cubs, we could wait ‘til 5-plus, the players always wanted to come back. I think here, we’re like a 3-plus franchise. You know, we…we look at it, you get to 3-plus, it’s time to make, you know, if you’re going to do it, that’s the serious time to consider it. "

MacPhail did the deal for RF Nick Markakis in the parameters of that policy –  Markakis was offered the 6-year, $66 million extension at the end of his third year before he would have gone to arbitration. In Markakis’ case, he won’t be a free agent until after his Age 30 season as a result of the deal signed in January of 2009. In Jones’ case, a similar length deal would lock him up until his age 31 season.

MacPhail is under no pressure to sign Jones to an extension. By barely missing Super-2 status, which would have earn him arbitration a year early, Jones will be on the normal three-year clock for the league minimum. Jones remains under team control until the completion of his sixth year of service time, meaning he’s an Oriole through 2013 unless the team trades him or designates him for assignment.

But suddenly, there’s a little less certainty he will be an Oriole after 2013, also.