Adam Jones' Japan adventure; Robust free-agent market; Major-minor tensions -

Rich Dubroff

Adam Jones’ Japan adventure; Robust free-agent market; Major-minor tensions


While it was fascinating to see Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon sign during last week’s Winter Meetings, Adam Jones’ signing with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes was even more interesting.

The mega-signings along with a number of others in recent days has shown the return of a robust free-agent market, and that’s good for baseball.

However, it’s apparent that Jones, who had to wait until last March to get a tempting offer, had no appetite to wait into spring training to decide on his 2020 team.

Manny Machado, Jones’ longtime teammate, waited nearly as long as Jones but his wait was worth it — he signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres.

Jones signed with Arizona for 1 percent of Machado’s terms, $3 million for a year.

Five years ago, a player with Jones’ credentials as a centerfielder could have drawn perhaps a three-year $40 million contract, even at age 33, but because the free agent market was so cold he had to take the Diamondbacks’ offer.

Jones didn’t have a bad offensive year, though his .260 average was a career low. His 16 home runs and 67 RBIs were about what he produced in 2018, his final year in Baltimore, and his .728 OPS was just four points lower than his last Orioles’ season.

The analytics say that Jones has decliined defensively. Overall, Jones had WARs of 4.1, 4.7 and 4.8 from 2012-2014, but in 2018, his WAR slipped to 0.2 because his defensive metrics indicated he was no longer an elite centerfielder.

Last season, Jones’ overall WAR was -0.4, because of poor defensive numbers despite playing all but one game in right field.


Jones still could have been an effective fourth outfielder for a good team, and his clubhouse leadership has never been questioned.

Instead of hoping that a contender would think he’d be a worthy veteran, Jones signed a contract with the Buffaloes that conceivably could net as much as $15.5 million through 2022 if his option is exercised and he meets his incentive clauses.

Jones is adventurous, and loves to travel, and he’s sure to be popular in Japan, but it’s a shame that there wasn’t a soft landing spot for him in the major leagues.

Hot free-agent market, cool labor talk: After two years of relative boredom at the Winter Meetings, there was lots of buzz last week in San Diego.

Some ill-timed words from Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos before free agency began angered Players Association chief Tony Clark.

Clark believed that Anthopoulos was suggesting clubs were colluding with each other, and a number of prominent baseball writers were predicting tensions would continue to increase between MLB and the players.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement still has two years to run, and while many of the top-shelf free agents have signed, there are still a number left unsigned: Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Many veterans, including former Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop, are unsigned, and if the market for 30-somethings percolates, that will go a long way to ensuring that the next round of bargaining will go smoothly.

Tensions hot between majors and minors: One area where tensions haven’t cooled at all is the dispute between MLB and the minor leagues.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has been angered at the stance taken by the minors, who have accused him of trying to remove 42 teams.

Manfred and minor league president Pat O’Conner traded sharp charges last week with both sides accusing the other of being inflexible.

“I hope that Minor League Baseball, which has taken the position that they’re not willing to discuss anything but the status quo or any changes that would provide for upgrades in adequate facilities, better working conditions for our players,” Manfred said. “That they move off the take-it-or-leave-it status quo approach and come to the table and try to make a deal.”

MILB released a four-page statement Friday night rebutting MLB’s charges.

There’s talk that if no agreement is reached by next September when the current one ends that MLB will try to organize its own minor league system.

Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias indicated last week that he favors the club’s current geographic setup with four of its six affiliates in Maryland, and a fifth, in Norfolk, Virginia.

“We like the way our minor leagues are situated with Baltimore, with them all being so close,” Elias said.

MILB has a number of prominent legislators behind it. Legal and legislative pressure might be the only way to save some of the endangered teams.

It’s question time: In the next few days, I’ll be answering questions from readers. If you have a question, either leave it in the comments section or e-mail me: [email protected].

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. NormOs

    December 17, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Rich, talking about free agents in an O’s blog? This teams GM has said “WE HAVE NO INTEREST IN THE TOP FIFTY (that’s 50) FREE AGENTS”

    WHEN DOES THE REBUILD START? Do they have a date in mind? Does anyone know? How do you rebuild without major league players?

  2. Orial

    December 17, 2019 at 8:55 am

    The O’s outwardly acknowledging no interest to participate in the FA market is understandable at this point but I fear that stance will only lesson a small bit in 3-4 years. They’ll remain a non player in the “big fish” market no matter what is my concern as the years progress( best years are behind). Status Quo will never win any debate. I recommend that MLB and MILB look for a compromise. How about eliminating 21 instead of 42?

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 17, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Rich, reading your articles these past two days, and reading what others fans think about “building” the lineup for this coming season .. simply put .. makes me sick to my stomach. Nobody is building a lineup for this coming season.

    I’m sick to my stomach over what has become of this team under Mike Elias and the Angelos family. To think that the organization simply doesn’t care one iota over what they put on the field this coming season is total bush league. BUSH LEAGUE.

    And I don’t want to hear the word ‘rebuild’ in defense of ownership or our GM again either. I don’t want to hear about being patient. All I expect is a nominal effort to field a team of our best your players augmented by a few veterans where needed. Why couldn’t they have paid Villar. Why can’t they pay Schoop now? And what in the wide world of sports is Davis doing on the current 40 man roster?

    Purging the team of every major league worthy player they have and their unwillingness to sign ANYBODY not willing to work for minimum wage is simply an unabashed Tank Job and speaks volumes to just how low our leadership is willing to sink in the name of a $, and a cheap fix by way of high draft picks. Shame on you Mr. Angelos and Family. And shame on Mike Elias for copping out and turning OUR team into a joke and fodder for ridicule for ESPN and the rest of the nation.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 17, 2019 at 10:52 am

      Sometimes I don’t agree with you but on this post you wrote exactly word for word how I feel and how other commentators on other chats feel. I’ve lost all respect for Elias. Rebuilt bull s hit you still have to put a team on the field that can complete and give the fans something to be proud of. Keeping Davis on the team in plain English hurts the team and has nothing to do with Elias rebuilding. A 66 million dollar payroll with 1/3 going to the worst player in the majors. I love Rich he’s a fine man but his excuse of Elias and Angelos spending the money on analytics and organizational stuff is hogwash. If you not going to get ML players on this roster then just play all the kids even if they are not so called ready it will be more exciting then seeing the castoffs, rule 5 and waiver pickups that Elias puts on this team.

      • Rich Dubroff

        December 17, 2019 at 8:38 pm

        Bruce, I’m not defending Mike Elias. I’m pointing out what he’s saying.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 17, 2019 at 11:36 am

      Let me clear something up …don’t get me wrong … me being ‘sick’ of what I’m reading has nothing to do with Rich Dubroff or his skills or opinions. Frankly, I don’t see where he’s ‘defending’ anyone. He writes ’em as he sees ’em, and frankly, what else does he have to write about? It is was it is.

    • Bancells Moustache

      December 17, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      I don’t know that I’ve lost respect for Elias, he’s just playing the game the way he can play it. You can’t say the man isn’t doing exactly what he’s being paid to. It’s a monkey see monkey do league, and everyone in the Majors is going to do a cheap Astros/Cubs rebuild imitation. I just hate how it is now viewed as gospel that, in order to field a competitive team, you have to subject your paying customers to 3-5 100 loss seasons. It’s corporate, risk-averse baseball brought about by the economics of a game that is bloated beyond all belief. With MLB clubs less apt to sign High School players, the constant flux of minor league rosters and the stagnation at the big league level, it wouldn’t surprise me to see collegiate baseball see a dramatic uptick in popularity over the next decade. One could argue it is the superior product for the baseball fan.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 17, 2019 at 2:11 pm

      You’ll never see the Yankees, Boston, Dodgers do a cheap rebuild. That’s why baseball is not playing on a fair plain. The teams with the big revenue can go like Boston from last to WS champs without subjecting their fans to repeated losing seasons

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 17, 2019 at 2:24 pm

        Only a fool would argue that BHoff. It’s hasn’t been a level playing field the Days of Andy Messersmith. Maybe even longer.

        And teams like Boston can afford to eat their bad contracts. How much were the forced to swallow of Pablo Sandoval’s contract?

    • TxBirdFan

      December 17, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      I couldn’t agree more with Boog! I live in Dallas and the Rangers don’t have a good team, but they keep trying to pull in players that will enable them to get back to the playoffs. They could choose to tank and deconstruct the team as Elias is doing, but they think there are other ways to compete with Houston. That includes putting a competitive team on the field EVERY year and building a fan base. They don’t always make the best choices, but I give them credit for trying.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 17, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      You and me might be the only ones who know Andy Messersmith.

      • ButchBird59

        December 17, 2019 at 8:27 pm

        Do either of you remember Curt Flood? 🙂

        • Rich Dubroff

          December 17, 2019 at 9:00 pm

          I met and interviewed Curt Flood.

          • BunkerFan

            December 20, 2019 at 10:59 pm

            That’s cool, Rich. What were your impressions of him? And yes, I remember both of them. Flood was a pioneer; yes, Messersmith followed the sacrifices that Flood made, both personal and professional, especially and particularly because he was not only challenging the ownership chattel system but he was an African-American doing it. Imagine the courage that took! I don’t fault either of them nor Marvin Miller, who finally made it posthumously into the Hall of Fame. Of course, posthumously. I fault MLB for not providing both a hard ceiling and a hard floor to team spending. Of course, things have gotten completely out of hand; but the owners are more to blame than the players. They’re the ones paying ridiculous salaries while drooling at the chance to end their seasons a month later than most. Look at the $$ paid for Harper last year and Cole this year. Both are way off base. Of course, we O’s fans don’t have much farther to look than the disaster of a contract that Crush has. It’s tying up the whole team.

          • Rich Dubroff

            December 21, 2019 at 9:02 am

            Professor Roth, I met Curt Flood in the early 90’s. It was at an Old-Timer’s game, and he was more interested in seeing his old contemporaries than rehashing his battles with the baseball establishment, but he did it nevertheless.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          December 17, 2019 at 9:19 pm

          Not really, only what I’ve read about him. I know that Andy Messersmith would never have cashed in like he did had Flood not paved the way. And I remember reading the newspapers the day he did.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 17, 2019 at 10:09 pm

      Of course I know Curt Flood. I’m dating myself. Me free agency

    • mlbbirdfan

      December 17, 2019 at 11:28 pm

      The tearing down and rebuilding process started the minute Mike Elias was hired. The rebuild will take about seven years. So, six years to go. I am in a partnership with six season tickets to 81 games. So far, we are holding fairly steady. I have pointed out the seven-year plan from Astroball, often in the past. Crying now is not going to change anything. Neither is cutting VR and trading Bundy. Outstanding young starting pitchers will change things. Grow the arms, buy the bats.

      • WorldlyView

        December 18, 2019 at 1:53 am

        You are prepared to be patient for SEVEN years?? My hat’s off to you if you succeed!

      • Hallbe62

        December 18, 2019 at 10:01 am

        At least you realise the correct timeframe for “tanking the Astros way”.

        And yes it is a 7 year process. And that’s if everything goes perfect and we have few misses in our MLB drafts

        • Jbigle1

          December 18, 2019 at 10:37 pm

          Nihilist meeting of the minds today. It didn’t take the Astros nor the Cubs 7 years to get competitive. You could look it up; if you wanted to. But I suppose we’re just going to be real negative. Orioles baseball is going to be as unwatchable as it was last season. No better; probably not any worse. 2021 should bring slightly better baseball to Baltimore.

          • WorldlyView

            December 20, 2019 at 10:08 pm

            Slightly better than truly awful is still awful. And one does not need to be a nihilist to suggest: 1) It is possible to go too far, too fast in dismantling a team with no effort to find a couple of very good replacements to add a touch of respectability, and 2) It is not a given that trying to rebuild a team from the ground up will inevitably, automatically lead to a competitive, winning AL East team in less than a decade. As always, I hope the optimists prove correct.

    • CalsPals

      December 18, 2019 at 7:51 am

      Amen…go O’s…

  4. Bancells Moustache

    December 17, 2019 at 10:16 am


    This Minor League business was going to be ugly regardless, but now with politicians getting involved (in a Presidential election year no less) it’s going to be a disaster. Fascinated to see how it plays out. Hard to see a scenario where MLB doesn’t get absolutely barbecued from a public relations standpoint. Between two pitchers and a third baseman in the span of a week over a half billion bucks was agreed to, but the league tells the city of Frederick and it’s taxpayers to take a long walk off a short pier? Not a good look.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 17, 2019 at 4:52 pm

      Some 100 loss seasons. When there might not be enough people in the stands to support many more. How many more can we take

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 17, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    I find it more than interesting that MLB has come up with the plan to contractright about the same time as I heard that the players union express their interest in improving their minor league brothers working wages. Which to my understanding is slightly, if at all, above slave wages. Could the two be related? Awfully coincidental if not.

  6. NormOs

    December 17, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Rich, good try! From the posts, it seems the guys want to talk about the O’s. No one, so far, has talked about AJ or mega signings, or the “hot free agent market” unless it directly involved the O’s and that ain’t happening. Bancells referred to the minors only because it, again, would affect the O’s. If this sad trend continues, the O’s may have, at most, in 2020, four major league hitters, one starter and two relievers and 120/130 losses.

  7. willmiranda

    December 17, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Maybe a “robust free-agent market” is good for baseball.. It was great for Chris Davis. For the O’s, maybe not so much. With Jones and a slew of other ex-O’s headed across the wide Pacific, you can’t say the Orioles haven’t had an impact on international signings. Cannons to the right of me, cannons to the left of me. When I suggested a ten-game improvement for next year as a goal for the O’s, Rich said it was unacceptable, and others said it was unattainable. I’m in the middle: it should be both attainable and acceptable in the second year of a real rebuild from the abyss. And if the rebuild gathers momentum, another fifteen game improvement in 2021 would make the O’s virtually a .500 team. I know there are MBA’s out there who marvel at the aesthetics of a well-oiled bureaucracy, but I’m the old-fashioned type who checks the bottom line. It’s the performance on the field that justifies the guys in the cubicles.

    • Camden Brooks

      December 17, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      I think a 10 game improvement was very possible – before Villar and Bundy were traded. Unlike some of the fellows here, I’m trusting Elias’ process to work, and I know it will result in some 100-loss seasons.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 17, 2019 at 5:17 pm

        To improve by 10 games, all you’d have to do is find a couple of below average major league starters. Not bums like they found last year, but guys that can get past the 1st inning or 2 without giving up 8 or 9 runs. Seriously, how many games were the Birds literally down by double digits not even half way through the game.

        Hey Mr. Folkemer … how getting your database pants on and look that one up for us would ya?

        That’s all it would take and Mr. Elias knows it. And that’s exactly what he’s going to avoid. Wins

      • Rich Dubroff

        December 17, 2019 at 8:42 pm

        Camden, they could have a 10-game improvement in 2020, but as I’ve been writing, 98 losses is still a horrible season.

        • willmiranda

          December 18, 2019 at 10:28 am

          I’m not sure, Rich,that this is your position, but I find it hard to reconcile the ideas that (a) losses don’t matter and (b) 98 –or whatever– losses are horrible. Either a team’s record is an indication of progress or regression or it’s not. If the O’s lose 120 games next year, should we be concerned?

          • Rich Dubroff

            December 18, 2019 at 11:24 am

            Will, I wouldn’t be fixated on the win/loss record in 2020. I would pay much closer attention in 2021.

          • Jbigle1

            December 18, 2019 at 10:42 pm

            Wins or losses in a rebuild do not need to be linear. I don’t understand why people have this linear mindset. Say the Orioles win 65 games this year. Is that a success?

            How do you answer that question? What if: we won 65 games because Alex Cobb and Asher Wojo pitch to a 3 ERA as a starter. Michael Givens doesn’t blow a single save. Some career long utility man like Valaika manages to put together a solid season and Chris Davis bats around the league average. ….. All of this happens but Means, Harvey, Austin Hays, and Santander regress. Are we really now in a better position?

            That’s an extreme example obviously. But my point is what good is that? Are we really better off than if we won 57 games but Santander, Hays, Means and HArvey improve significantly?

          • willmiranda

            December 19, 2019 at 9:48 am

            Thanks for the comments, Rich and Jbigle. I hope I’m not too fixated on 2020; I prefer to think of it as focused on the present. To answer your question Jbigle, I think winning 65 games next year would be a sign of improvement, if not success. I also think that if it happens, it is more likely to be the result of the improvement of the young players you mention –and perhsps others– than of the performances suggested by your first scenario. Of course, if both your scenarios were combined, I believe the team would be well north of 65 wins and success would be an appropriate term.

    • Camden Brooks

      December 17, 2019 at 7:50 pm

      Yeah, that’s it BRR. EVERYTHING Elias is doing is for the sole purpose of losing as many games as possible, just to improve our draft position.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 17, 2019 at 8:40 pm

      Will, a robust free agent market has people talking about baseball in the middle of football season.

    • CalsPals

      December 20, 2019 at 2:37 pm

      That it does, too bad none of it pertains to the O’s…go O’s….

  8. Chuck

    December 17, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Rich, I had to smile at the irony of your words, and I have to say I respect Adam Jones and all he did for the Orioles and for Baltimore. But saying he’s “adventurous and loves to travel” when he declined to move 90 miles up I-95 to Philadelphia for the end of the 2018 season is kind of funny. We’ll never know what that cost us in terms of prospects.

    • ClayDal

      December 17, 2019 at 3:29 pm

      Adam has never really given a clear answer why he turned down the trade. Among the possible reasons-Duquette didn’t ask him nice enough, as a pending free agent was only going to be a part time player, didn’t want to uproot the family. My guess is he turned down the trade because he could. He had worked hard to get the 10 and 5 rights and he wasn’t going to waste it. He knew the Orioles weren’t going to re sign him, so he would never have that right again. Don’t think he had any animus toward Philly. Doubt that the Phillies offered much in the way of a prospect. There wasn’t much of a market for him in free agency, so it’s doubtful the Phillies would give up much for a 2 month rental. Hope he does well in Japan. The post game interviews should be entertaining

    • Raymo

      December 17, 2019 at 5:08 pm

      Maybe the fans in Japan will enjoy his pie in the face antics.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 17, 2019 at 5:19 pm

        I did.

      • WorldlyView

        December 17, 2019 at 7:03 pm

        Is it sadistic to suggest that it would be amusing if Adam Jones, before he leaves for Japan, lobs a custard pie in the face of Mr. Elias?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 17, 2019 at 8:41 pm

      Chuck, as ClayDal said, looking at two months of Adam Jones last year, the return would npt have been great, but he did have the right to invole his no-trade clause.

  9. whiterose

    December 17, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    All below is why Marvin Miller does not belong in HOF

  10. cedar

    December 17, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    Not necessarily a question but a request – I’d like to read more about the changes the Orioles have made in Latin America and what impact is the team having or if it’s still too early hopes to see in the near future?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 17, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      En Espanol por favor.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 17, 2019 at 10:54 pm

      Cedar, I’ve written about it a few times, including an interview with Koby Perez, who heads up international scouting. That was back in September. It’s still early days, and it will take several years to establish the team as a major player in Latin America.

  11. BunkerFan

    December 20, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Rich and Co.
    Well…there is a lot to say on this post. I am pleased to see the contrast between this group of bloggers and those on…shall we say other sites, where I was pummeled for questioning the orthodox dogma that it is completely impossible to put a competitive team on the field while at the same time placing primary emphasis on the development of the minor league system:
    …This (the reported failure to sign the famous Fernando Abad) only further contributes to the impression that the new front office doesn’t give a Tinker’s Damn about the fanbase. Sure, let’s strengthen the Minors and improve player development. But I ask again: doesn’t the Fanbase count for anything? Why can’t you do the development piece but also put a reasonably competitive team on the field. Tampa does this masterfully. They do not hesitate to spend money on quality free agents while at the same time doing a great job in player development. Maybe the Angelos Boys should have hired someone from that FO instead of the now painfully obviously flawed Astros FO.
    I DO think it’s worth paying money to improve the O’s MLB team for the next few years. The most important reason for this is to protect young players making the jump to the Show. Sign a few quality free agents and you don’t have to rush anyone who isn’t ready. Sign a few quality free agents and you help defray the demoralizing effect of coming up into a culture of losing, one in which you might as well forfeit 120 games a year than play them. Sign a few quality free agents and keep your fanbase engaged. Given the team payroll is now in the mid $70m’s, this is not a tough call. It seems like most of you (on this other O’s site) have drunk the Cool Aid that you can’t both dramatically improve the player development system AND put a competitive team on the field at the same time.”

    • CalsPals

      December 20, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      I think there are more people that agree with you than you realize, we just seem to be battling a few who feel it’s impossible to do both…go O’s…

  12. BunkerFan

    December 20, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    On Adam Jones’ Signing with the Orix Buffaloes: I have spent much time living in Japan off and on over the last 40 years and–being a serious baseball fan–I have attended dozens of games in Tokyo and Osaka. My wife and I even attended the season-opening game for Orix in the Kyocera Dome in Osaka in 2018. Obviously Adam signed for the money and for what he must think is the chance to put up big numbers there and perhaps even revive his US Major league career. However, there are a few things that Adam must know: 1. Orix is a very weak team in the arguably less prestigious of the two Japanese Major Leagues (Pacific League); Orix is a combined team that was formed about a decade ago from two failed teams, the Orix Blue Wave and the Kintetsu Buffaloes; 2. They do play in a 35k fan plus domed stadium. It doesn’t open, which is a good thing because during the Monsoon in June every game could be played in the rain. Fans are loyal, but there are just not a lot of them; the stadium wasn’t even filled on Opening Day; 3. Fans for home and visiting teams sit on opposite sides of the stadium with marching bands and cheering sections like College Football games here.; 4. Teams and fans value conformity and putting the group first over the individual; I think Adam is going to have a hard time with this, especially the first time the manager benches him or pulls him out of a game for a younger runner or fielder. 5. With a couple of exceptions like Cecil Fielder in the 80’s, American hitters who go to Japan do not have the kind of sucess on returning to the US that pitchers do. I would guess that American pitchers improve their control because of a tightly managed and smaller strike zone in Japan; and American hitters get frustrated by the very same thing. 6. He is probably going to be called “Jone-zu” because that’s how his name is likely to be pronounced. Imagine the difficulties people over there had with the first non-ethnically Japanese American manager, Wade Blasingame, who managed the other major team in Osaka, the much more successful and popular Hanshin Tigers when I first went to a game, 40 years ago last summer.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 21, 2019 at 8:59 am

      Interesting thoughts, Professor Roth, on both Japan and the Orioles rebuild. Thank you for your well-reasoned arguments. I saw two games in Japan in the early 90’s at the Tokyo Dome. I saw the Nippon Ham Fighters and came away not terribly impressed with the quality of baseball. Another interesting facet of Japanese baseball was all female PA announcers.

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