Baltimore Orioles: What to do with Markakis?


Oct 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis dives back to first base safely on a fielder

For the first time in his career, it’s not a certainty that right fielder Nick Markakis will be a Baltimore Oriole next year.

The Orioles face a $17.5 million team option for the services of the 30-year-old in 2015, and it appears unlikely the team will pick it up.

Markakis has been a fixture in the Orioles lineup since 2006 when the former first-round draft pick made his first appearance for the team. Markakis brings a consistency and quiet intensity that often goes under-appreciated by MLB fans and media, but is always recognized by teammates and managers.

Markakis is about as sure a thing as baseball will allow, playing in at least 147 games in each of his seven seasons except one, 2012. Markakis has also registered an on-base percentage above .340 in every season except 2013 and won a Gold Glove in 2011.

But despite the great things that Markakis brings to the team, his skillset makes it look questionable at best to pick up Markakis’ $17.5 million option. Markakis is great for the things he brings — good defense, on-base percentage, and average — but doesn’t bring elite speed or power that often command contracts worth as much as Markakis’ option.

Instead, it appears the Orioles will deny that option and attempt to sign Markakis to a contract extension at a lower rate. Early indications suggest that Markakis will be open to such a deal. He seems to like it in Baltimore, his family has roots in the area, and Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette have the team moving in the right direction.

But what’s the right number? And will that number climb out of the Orioles’ price range with teams like the Mets and Giants potentially interested in signing him?

I estimate Markakis has earned something in the $12 to $13 million per year range for the next 3 years. With his already mediocre power declining steadily since 23 and 20 home run seasons in 2007 and 2008, I would be reluctant to commit beyond that.

If other teams offer to pay Markakis more or for longer, the Orioles shouldn’t be forced to match their offer if it climbs above what they are comfortable with. Even without Markakis, the Orioles could still boast a strong outfield with Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, and possibly Nelson Cruz, depending on how his free agency plays out this winter. Steve Pearce could also play corner outfield position if needed.

While Markakis is a key contributor to the Orioles and will go down in history as big part of the Orioles rise back to relevance, the team can’t be jaded by the desire to reward Markakis for what he once was.

I want Markakis on the team, but like all players, he comes at a cost. Even fan favorites and lifetime Orioles have their price. Here’s hoping the Orioles and Markakis agree on the right one.