Nick Markakis Rumors

AL East Notes: Norris, Rays, Markakis, Wieters

Notable talent evaluators from the Rays and Cubs were recently on hand to watch Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris throw five scoreless innings in a high-A ball start, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports.  Norris, 21, was a second round draft pick for the Jays in 2011 and was ranked as the franchise’s sixth-best prospect by the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.  The southpaw has a 1.22 ERA, 4.22 K/BB rate and 10.3 K/9 in 13 starts this season, and Elliott wonders if Norris or outfielder Dalton Pompey could be targeted by the Rays or Cubs as part of a trade package for David Price or Jeff Samardzija this summer.  Both Elliott and two scouts feel the Jays (who are known to be looking for a pitching upgrade) need a power arm to be legitimate postseason contenders.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Also from Elliott, he hears that the Cubs are asking for four players in return for Samardzjia.  The Blue Jays had two evaluators present for Samardzija’s start against the Marlins on June 7th.
  • The Rays are “looking like the strong favorites” to sign 15-year-old Dominican shortstop Adrian Rondon, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports, though Rondon cannot sign until he turns 16 on July 7.  Rondon, who is 6’2″ and 180 pounds, is expected to sign for around a $3MM bonus.  Several scouts consider Rondon to be the best prospect available on the international market, with one scout even telling Badler that Rondon’s upside could make him “a Hanley Ramirez-type of offensive shortstop.”
  • Nick Markakiswants to play here for the rest of his life,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko).  The O’s have a $17.5MM club option on Markakis for 2015 that will very likely be bought out for $2MM, though Markakis’ strong play this season is putting him in good shape for a new multiyear contract.
  • The Orioles expect Dr. James Andrews to recommend that Matt Wieters‘ right elbow will require Tommy John surgery when the catcher is examined later today, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  Losing Wieters would obviously be a major blow to the O’s this season, and it would further complicate any plans they might have to sign Wieters to a contract extension (Wieters is under control through 2015).
  • Two-thirds of the Red Sox roster could be trade candidates if the team decides to rebuild for 2015, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe writes.  Abraham’s list includes several relievers (including Koji Uehara), A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, Stephen Drew, Jake Peavy and Jonny Gomes.  While you could make a case for the likes of Jon Lester, Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks or Clay Buchholz to be dealt as well, Abraham feels these players are much longer shots to be traded.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington needs to make a move for a quality outfield bat before the season is lost, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines.

AL Notes: Orioles, Rodney, Sabathia, A’s Catchers

We just looked at the latest from the AL Central; here are some notes from the rest of the American League:

  • The Orioles will not discuss contract extensions during the season, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. “We’re not going to be exploring any extensions during the season,” said Executive VP Dan Duquette. “… Once the season starts, I think it benefits the team and the players and the fans to keep the focus on the field and the players on the field.” While star center fielder Adam Jones was inked to a mid-season extension back in 2012, Duquette explained that was a different situation since “we started that discussion during the winter, and it extended into the season.” The team is not presently in talks with any of its current crop of pending free agents, Duquette said. While shortstop J.J. Hardy had been linked to contract chatter during the spring, he and fellow free-agents-to-be Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis will seemingly be allowed to test the open market. (MLBTR’s Steve Adams just took a look an early look at the free agent case of Markakis.)
  • Mariners closer Fernando Rodney said today that he wanted to stay with the Rays but never received a contract offer, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (Twitter link). Rodney added that he received two-year offers from the MetsOrioles, and Indians, in addition to a one-year offer from the Yankees, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, Rodney ultimately went to Seattle for two years and $14MM.
  • Yankees hurler C.C. Sabathia is headed to see Dr. James Andrews, tweets Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, though thankfully the issue is in his knee rather than his left elbow. As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes, the visit is viewed as precautionary, as a recent MRI showed no structural issues. “The best-case scenario is, CC gets the knee drained, rests for five days and gets a couple of bullpens under his belt and he takes the start after he comes off the DL,” said GM Brian Cashman. “That’s the best-case scenario. I’m not saying that’s the scenario we’re dealing with yet, but that’s the best.” The club will hope that proves to be the result, as its rotation is already dealing with several notable injuries. Needless to say, any ongoing issues with Sabathia would only further enhance New York’s starting pitcher needs at the trade deadline.
  • The Athletics have gained more production from the catching spot than any other American League club through the combination of Derek Norris and John Jaso, writes John Hickey of Bay Area News Group. Heading into today’s action, the platoon pair had combined for an impressive .338/.419/.507 triple-slash. Indeed, that line has actually been good enough to vault the A’s catching unit into the league lead by measure of fWAR, with a healthy 1.9 wins above replacement through just 184 plate appearances. Both players came to Oakland through trades involving the Nationals, with Norris a piece in the Gio Gonzalez trade and Jaso heading down from the Mariners in the three-team Michael Morse deal.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Nick Markakis

Though he technically has an option on his contract, Nick Markakis seems like a virtual lock to hit the open market this coming offseason. Markakis has a $17.5MM mutual option with a $2MM buyout, but mutual options are almost never exercised. Typically, if a player plays well enough for the team to exercise the option, that means he’s played well enough to beat the value of that option on the open market. Conversely, if a player doesn’t feel that he can top the option’s value on the open market, the team likely doesn’t wish to pay him at that level.

Nick  Markakis

With that said, Markakis appears poised to join what will be a relatively weak free agent market for hitters and outfielders. Aside from Colby Rasmus (28 next year) and Melky Cabrera (30 next season), Markakis (31 in 2015) is one of the youngest free agent outfielders on the market. Older options like Michael Cuddyer, Nelson Cruz and Torii Hunter will be available, but each will also carry greater risk on a multi-year deal. From an age standpoint, Markakis is well-positioned.

From a performance standpoint, he’s begun to erase the memory of a 2013 season that saw him bat just .271/.329/.356 — disappointing numbers for a player who slashed .295/.365/.455 from 2006-12. In this season’s early stages, Markakis has upped his walk rate to 8.8 percent and is striking out a career-low 9.4 percent of his trips to the dish. Overall, he has produced a .317/.375/.414 batting line with a pair of homers and two steals. The stolen bases are noteworthy, as that pair of thefts matches the total that Markakis has posted over the past two seasons combined. Should he again become a threat to steal 10-15 bases per season, that would no doubt be appealing to teams.

Of course, Markakis’s early success isn’t guaranteed throughout the season, and there are likely some who doubt that he can sustain the production after a down year in 2013. It’s possible, though, that Markakis was slowed last year by lasting effects from a trio of surgeries that he endured in 2012. Markakis had a sports hernia procedure that January, underwent surgery to repair a broken hamate bone that June and then ended his season with a fractured thumb that also required surgery in September.

Prior to that poor year, Markakis had posted a 117 wRC+ and 118 OPS+ over his career, indicating that he was 17 to 18 percent better than a league-average hitter. While last season marked the only time that his OPS dipped below .756 and the only time that OPS+ and wRC+ labeled him a below-average hitter, Markakis has seen a dip in power since 2010; he averaged 20 homers with a .177 ISO from 2007-09, but he’s averaged 12 homers with a .125 ISO in four full seasons since.

On the other side of the coin is his defense. Markakis has a Gold Glove to his credit, but sabermetric defensive stats such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved have pegged him as a below average fielder dating back to the 2009 season. His range has been the reasoning behind those ratings, as his arm continues to be average or better, according to each metric.

Ultimately, if Markakis continues to produce at a level that’s well above the league average (as he has so far in 2014), it seems likely that clubs will be willing to overlook his rough 2013, perhaps chalking it up to a down season in the wake of several surgeries. Though that may cause some to question his durability, interested teams will be quick to note that he averaged 151 games from 2006-13 — appearing 157 games or more five different times.

Curtis Granderson was paid handsomely this offseason even after he appeared in just 61 games in his platform season. If Markakis sustains his current pace, he could well be viewed as an above-average corner bat with a few peak years remaining, even with some diminished power numbers. Markakis’ name doesn’t come up all that often when discussing next winter’s free agent class, but a typical year for him will position the longtime Oriole for a nice multi-year deal on the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



AL East Links: Markakis, Sternberg, Blue Jays, Ortiz

For the last year or two, Nick Markakis has been vocal about how important it would be to spend his entire career with one organization, and the outfielder tells Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun how he hopes his contract year will help carry the Orioles to a championship and, potentially, convince the team to keep him in the fold.  "In a perfect world, I'd like to [stay here],'' Markakis said. "A lot of people play this game for the wrong reasons. A lot of people play it where the money is. I get a bigger satisfaction being with the same team your whole career….To be able to do that would be a pretty cool experience. It would be something special to me."  The O's have a $17.5MM option on Markakis for 2015 that seems a bit too expensive to exercise even if Markakis does rebound from his career-low numbers last season, though the two sides could work out another multiyear deal.

Here's more from around the AL East…

  • Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that while he didn't plan on having a payroll in the $80MM range for the coming season, the opportunity was there for the Rays to sign Grant Balfour and re-sign James Loney.
  • Sternberg noted that extending a star like David Price is "more difficult now than it was in the past, given the numbersThere's been inflation.''  That said, Sternberg also "wouldn't say it's likely" that this is Price's last year in Tampa.  "You just can't make decisions like that this far in advance, and we're trying to give the team as big of a chance as we can this year without sacrificing our future as well," Sternberg said.  "There's the opportuniuty of other players, there's the expense that's involved in it, but we're…a little enamored with the possibilities of what we can do, and what he brings."
  • The Blue Jays haven't made many roster moves this winter but GM Alex Anthopoulos tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that he expects the Jays to improve simply by avoiding some of the injuries and misfortune that plagued the club last season.  “Sometimes you sit there and say, ‘We won 74 games, when everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong,’” Anthopoulos said. “So this year, what happens if we just have a little bit of luck?  I can understand the skepticism about our team, absolutely, coming off the year we’re coming off.  But I just don’t think it’s a stretch to expect improvement out of a lot of these guys this year, simply because the floor was so low.”
  • The Blue Jays' second base options project to generate only 0.4 WAR in 2014, Fangraphs' Mike Petriello notes, and he explores a few trade possibilities that could upgrade Toronto at the keystone position.
  • With the Red Sox enjoying huge revenues and big drops in payroll obligations in 2015 and 2016, ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes argues that the time is right to extend David Ortiz.  The slugger's contract negotiations have generated some bad publicity in recent years, so Edes suggests that Ortiz could receive a club option in perpetuity, a la Tim Wakefield's contract with the Sox.
  • Red Sox limited partner Michael Gordon isn't a well-known figure to most fans, but WEEI.com's Alex Speier profiles the man who has quietly become a more influential voice within the team's ownership group over the last few years.

Orioles Notes: Beltran, Wieters, Hardy, Markakis

The Orioles are interested in Carlos Beltran, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but their ability to land the slugging right fielder may be contingent upon whether or not they can trade Matt Wieters or another high-salary player to accommodate the lofty contract Beltran figures to sign. Other high-priced O's include closer Jim Johnson (projected to earn $10.8MM) and right fielder Nick Markakis ($15MM). Some other O's-related links for your Friday reading…

  • Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com writes that while many fans are surprised to have seen reports about the O's listening to offers on Wieters and J.J. Hardy, it shouldn't be that startling; the Orioles are willing to listen on any of their players. As he points out, Adam Jones' salary will continue to rise over the course of his contract, and they'll need to see if it's possible to extend Chris Davis and Manny Machado in the near future. Melewski feels that because Davis and Wieters are Scott Boras clients, it will be difficult to retain both, so the Orioles are right to keep all options open.
  • Mike Francesca of WFAN Radio in New York said on the air that the Mets and Orioles discussed Markakis at the GM Meetings, but nothing came of the talks (hat tip: Andrew Vazzano of SNY on Twitter).
  • Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that he met with about half the teams in baseball at the GM Meetings this week as he looked to acquire another outfielder. Duquette also said he'd consider tendering Nolan Reimold a contract but needs an update on how Reimold is recovering from neck surgery.

AL East Notes: Yankees, Big Papi, Markakis, Red Sox

Yesterday, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com surveyed two National League executives on Robinson Cano and his value as he inches closer to hitting the open market.  Both supported the Yankees spending big on the second baseman and one even said that he has a legitimate case for a $200MM extension.  Here's more on the Yankees and other AL East items..

  • David Ortiz told reporters, including the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber, that he may not play again for the Red Sox this year because of his strained right Achilles. "To be honest with you, what I’m looking for right now is to make sure I heal up the right way," Ortiz said. "I pushed it once. Didn’t work. So I’m not going to push it again." Ortiz, who has played only once since July 16, received a platelet-rich plasma injection nearly two weeks ago that has left him feeling “totally different.” But, he is still wearing a protective boot on his right foot and won’t attempt any baseball activities until at least Tuesday when he’s expected to have it removed. 
  • The Orioles' Nick Markakis is expected to undergo surgery tomorrow to insert a plate into his broken left thumb, according to Roch Kubatko of MASN.com. The surgery could speed up the recovery process, so the Orioles remain optimistic Markakis could return if they go deep into the playoffs, writes Kubatko.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks at five personnel decisions that backfired on the Yankees this season.  Sherman writes that the trade of Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda was among the club's biggest mistakes.  Although Pineda could bounce back from injury and fulfill his potential, Montero could have been a long-term answer for the Yankees in the event that Russell Martin leaves via free agency.
  • Theo Epstein only deserves some of the blame for the situation that the Red Sox are in and not all of it, opines John Tomase of the Boston Herald.  While Epstein made the big money deals that tied up the club's payroll, owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino had final say over all of them. 
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka's next start with the Red Sox could be his last with the club, writes Michael Vega of the Boston Globe.  "Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be wearing this Red Sox uniform next year," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter, Jeff Cutler. "As I’ve said before, it’s an honor to be able to wear this Red Sox uniform, but it hasn’t been an added stress for me."
  • Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told NESN's Tom Caron that the criticism that has been directed at him stems from personal gripes, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com.  Valentine believes that he has always received unfair criticism and anticipated more of it when he arrived in Boston.

Edward Creech also contributed to this post.


Orioles Notes: Hardy, Markakis, Uehara, Johnson

Some news tidbits from Charm City…

  • Teams have contacted the Orioles about J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds, tweets Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.  Jones would seemingly be untouchable and (as Heyman notes) Hardy and the Orioles are working out an extension, though Hardy would be a strong trade chip if negotiations fall apart.  Reynolds and Markakis are also probably unlikely to be dealt unless Baltimore is having second thoughts about paying Markakis over $47MM between now and the end of the 2014 season.
  • In a radio interview with 105.7 The Fan's Ken Weinman and Vinny Cerrato, ESPN's Keith Law thinks the team "should go out and deal any veteran player who is not likely to be part of the next good Orioles team. That’s anyone who is not under contract for 2013 or beyond. You’ve got to trade them for prospects, even if it’s a mid-level prospect. Trust your scouts. Go out and add the depth to your farm system. Sometimes you get lucky.”  Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun has transcribed some of the interview's highlights, plus a link to the audio of the full interview.
  • Koji Uehara "has drawn tepid interest" on the trade market due to his injury history and his age, reports MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli.  There is more interest in Jim Johnson, but the O's are considering making Johnson a starter next season and have told other teams that Johnson isn't for sale.
  • Andy MacPhail tells Ghiroli that the pitching staff is "definitely something we are looking at to try to augment" at the trade deadline.  To this end, if Jeremy Guthrie is traded, Baltimore would want at least one Major League-ready pitcher in return to eat Guthrie's innings.
  • Also from Ghiroli, MacPhail didn't comment on his own status with the club.  MacPhail's contract as Baltimore's president of baseball operations is up after this season.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Hoffman, Bay, Markakis

On this date back in 2004, Alex Rodriguez returned to Texas to play the Rangers for the first time since being traded (along with $71MM) to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias. He was booed loudly just like every other road game of his career, though he silenced the home crowd – at least temporarily – with a two-run homer in the first inning. 

 Here are a few links from around the baseball blogosphere…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.


Discussion: What’s Next For Baltimore?

The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly details the questions facing a Baltimore team with some young offensive talent, some terrific young pitching on the way, and a lot of extra cash.

Connolly writes that while the 64-98 record Baltimore had in 2009 was the third-worst in team history, "there is a sense that the future has promise because of the emergence of young starting pitchers Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, catcher Matt Wieters and outfielders Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie."

Left unsaid, of course, is the emergence of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis continuing to be a tremendous player.

The good news? The Orioles, according to Connolly, went from roughly $77MM owed in payroll at the start of the 2009 season-including $9MM to Jay Gibbons and Ramon Hernandez- to a $30MM commitment for 2010, not including raises through arbitration.

The bad news is that there aren't many marquee free agents (though there is Jason Marquis), and those that do qualify- Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, John Lackey- aren't great fits, particularly Bay and Holliday in an overcrowded outfield.

Connolly captures the problem of desires vs. realistic options perfectly here:

"The preference is to find a right-handed or switch-hitting first baseman in his prime, like the New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira. But there's no one who fits that profile in this year's class. The best free-agent options might be left-handed-hitting first basemen Russell Branyan and Hank Blalock or right-handed do-it-all Mark DeRosa."

So what's an Oriole to do?


Odds & Ends: Reynolds, Gammons, Orioles

Some late night links after Jake Peavy allowed three runs in five innings in his first start for the White Sox…

  • Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic notes that Mark Reynolds is likely to fall short of qualifying as a Super Two, meaning he'll have to wait until after 2010 to become arbitration eligible. He also says that it "does not appear there have been any discussions about a long-term deal with Reynolds, but the club does not seem averse to the idea of an extension."
  • ESPN's Peter Gammons writes about how great Victor Martinez has been for the Red Sox since being acquired at the trade deadline. He also praises Casey Kotchman, but I think I'd rather have Adam LaRoche, who has a 1.053 OPS since the trade.
  • Orioles Manager Dave Trembley indicated that the team needs someone to hit behind Nick Markakis until some younger players like Matt Wieters and Adam Jones are ready to do it, according to MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko
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