The Orix Buffaloes signed CF-R Adam Jones to a two-year, $8.8 million contract
There’s not much I can tell you about Adam Jones that you don’t already know. This is the same Adam Jones of Baltimore Orioles and 2017 World Baseball Classic fame. He’s heading to Orix and the Pacific League to prove he’s still a good player. At least, that’s the surface takeaway from his decision to sign with Orix. Underneath the surface, there are a host of other reasons why Jones chose the Buffaloes and they are far more important than what’s above the surface.
Jones wanted a guaranteed contract and he likely wasn’t going to get one from a Major League Baseball team. In his lone season with the Arizona Diamondbacks Jones was a below replacement level player, -0.6 rWAR to be exact. That and an age of 34 made him both a question mark offensively and defensively. By signing with Orix Jones attained the security that he wasn’t going to get from MLB. He also got a chance to prove himself, but again, that isn’t where I believe his focus resides.
Throughout his onboarding process with the Buffaloes it’s been clear that two things matter to Jones, acclimating and changing the culture. The acclimation comes in the form of Jones taking in the land of Japan and the new customs of Japanese baseball. To that end, Jones is the perfect player, as he possesses both a respect for the cultures of others and a desire to learn that is evident. This isn’t just a trip to Japan to cash a paycheck, this is Jones starting a new chapter in his life and attempting to make the most of what he has in front of him.
Changing the culture refers not to the culture of Japan but to that of Orix. For those unfamiliar with the Buffaloes they, well, they aren’t very good. Jones doesn’t change that by himself, but what he does do is bring a different perspective to a team that is dying for any change of pace. He also brings a high level of play that the Buffaloes desperately need, but I’m not sure if Jones’ impact will be felt much in his first year. Rather, Jones should reap rewards for the Buffaloes come year two of his contract where hopefully he will have instilled a culture in the clubhouse that begets winning.
Ultimately the skills a player possesses matter. Sometimes those skills aren’t completely tangible. For as much as I do believe that Jones will have a successful stat line in Japan it’s the success he will have in creating a winning clubhouse that matters the most. Wrapping my head around the Orix Buffaloes as a winning club isn’t easy, and that should tell anyone all they need to know about the track record of the Buffaloes. Adam Jones still has the skills to succeed in Nippon Professional Baseball, but more importantly, he’s been a winner everywhere he’s gone and he’s about to take that winning to a team that has forgotten what winning feels like.
Lead photo courtesy of Carolyn Kaster – Associated Press