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Diamondbacks signing gives new life to outfielder

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SportsPulse: Now that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have signed we can finally look ahead to actual baseball. Here are the storylines that will define the MLB in 2019.
USA TODAY

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There was no bitterness in his voice. Certainly no anger. Not even a hint of resentment.

Maybe there will be a time when Adam Jones will reveal his frustration about this long winter, but Tuesday wasn’t going to be the day.

This was a day, Jones said, he wanted to celebrate.

He finally has a job.

Jones signed a one-year, $3 million contract with $2 million in incentives with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

That’s it. A $14 million pay cut for the five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner who hit .281 with 15 homers last season for the Baltimore Orioles.

But when your lone offer is from the Diamondbacks and the only other team to show interest the entire winter was the Miami Marlins, your options are limited.

Really, he was left with only one choice.

“It was either play in the major leagues or stay home,” he said. “And at 33, I feel like I have a lot left in the tank. I want to play a few more years for sure, at least. This is the step in the right direction.

“I’m just happy to have the opportunity to continue to play baseball.”

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He’s playing all right, and perhaps with a vengeance, wanting to prove to the baseball world they made a huge mistake by not showing any interest.

Sure, he concedes, he had a down year last season. You try maintaining your spirit when your team wins 47 games and finishes 61 games out of first place. His .732 OPS was his lowest in a decade. The defensive metrics were ugly, pushing him from center field to right field the final two months.

But there’s not an analytical chart in all of baseball that measures a player’s heart. There’s no metric to define clubhouse leadership. No sabermetrician can quantify a great teammate.

Jones will be bringing all of that to Arizona, along with a Grand Canyon-sized chip on his shoulder to show he can still play this game.

“I don’t have the analytics in front of me, all I know is that between the lines,” Jones said, “I know I can play. I think that’s all, to me personally, that matters.

“I just got to go out there and do it all over again. I can still hit. I can produce.”

There are teams who now say they would have signed Jones if they knew the price tag had dropped so much. They inquired early on Jones and had sincere interest, but not at the price he was seeking.

Jones calls it excuses, and says only the Diamondbacks and Marlins ever expressed actual interest.

“[Teams] can put out what they want, but that was pretty much it.” Jones said. “I told my agent [Nez Balelo] to call me when something’s interesting. There was never really a phone call.

“The only team to step up to the plate was Arizona.”

All that really matters, he says, is the long wait is finally over.

“I think more guys were more frustrated than myself,” Jones said. “I just think it’s a process that a lot of people went through it last year and the year before. It’s an unfortunate situation especially for guys over 30, who I believe still have a lot to offer this game.

“You just got to ride the wave and ride it through, and have faith that somebody is going to give you an opportunity.

“I’m glad it all worked out.”

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Jones, one of the game’s most charismatic stars, and a pillar in the Baltimore community with his charitable work, said the best part of his ordeal was the support from all of his peers. It was overwhelming. If players weren’t reaching out directly to Jones, they openly talked about him in interviews and on social media, infuriated that a man who is one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors and role models was out of work.

“It was very humbling,” he said. “It’s great for guys to have your back in this instance. I’ve been a formidable force in the game.

“I’m just glad everyone can turn the page.

“I have a new opportunity here, so let me go out and try to maximize my opportunity.”

Jones was asked what needed to change in baseball’s free-agent market, with former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and four-time saves leader Craig Kimbrel still unemployed, but wasn’t ready to make any suggestions.

He just felt fortunate to have a job, and prove that he can still have an impact, where he’s expected to play all three outfield positions.

The D-backs say the feeling is quite mutual and are still can’t believe they landed him. 

“I couldn’t believe he was available,” said manager Torey Lovullo, who saw plenty of Jones during his days as a coach with the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. “Several days ago, when the front office threw the idea at me, I still couldn’t believe it. Not until he walked in here was I certain that he was going to be a member of the organization. …

“He brings, outside his performances, the great leadership. Him being here, changes the dynamic of the clubhouse in a way. He’s a tremendous leader who has walked the walk for a long time, at the level he has. The intangibles he brings to this organization, you can’t really measure. He’s exactly what we need at this time.”

And yes, Lovullo emphatically said, there’s no doubt in the world the man can still play.

“He’s a game-wrecker,” Lovullo said. “I sat on the opposing bench sucking my thumb just hanging on for dear life, like he’s going to do something special, and he does.”

Jones, who has been working out in Phoenix for the past two weeks, is hopeful there’s enough time to be ready by the March 28 season-opener. He’s looking forward to playing against his longtime Orioles teammate Manny Machado, who signed with the divisional rival San Diego Padres, and plans to surprise him with a bunt or two. Jones’ mom, who lives in Phoenix, will get to see him play much more often.

“I’m just glad the situation worked out perfectly here,” he said. “A lot of people are happy and excited I’m here. And I’m happy to be here.”

It just made absolutely no sense why it took so long

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @BNightengale

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