Nick Markakis Rumors

AL East Notes: Orioles, Kemp, Blue Jays

Earlier today, we rounded up some items from the AL East.  Here’s the afternoon edition..

  • The Orioles have talked to the Dodgers about Matt Kemp, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The O’s are lining up alternatives in case they can’t re-sign Nick Markakis and/or Nelson Cruz, but they could also be trying to create leverage to pressure both into staying.  As Rosenthal has said before, a Markakis return once appeared to be a foregone conclusion, but that’s no longer the case.
  • In a chat with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of SiriusXM, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos downplayed his interest in the market’s top free agent relievers.  “I don’t know that you’re going to see us involved in some of the large big money deals,” AA said, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter).
  • The Rays‘ trio of managerial finalists – Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez, and Don Wakamatsu – is about as intriguing and outside-the-box as you can get, writes David Laurila of Fangraphs.  The Rays are in a transition period and Laurila writes that it’ll be fascinating to see how they proceed from here.

Giants Casting Wide Net, Have Contacted Scherzer

After losing Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox, the Giants are casting a very wide net and have reached out to agent Scott Boras regarding top free Max Scherzer, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Giants appear to be scouring the trade and free agent markets for upgrades, as Heyman reports that they’ve at least initiated talks with free agents Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Chase Headley, Torii Hunter, Justin Masterson and of course Yasmany Tomas (their interest in Tomas has been well-documented). Beyond that, they’ve kicked the tires on Atlanta’s Justin Upton, and their interest in Jon Lester was reported yesterday as Sandoval looked to be on the verge of departure.

San Francisco’s interest in Scherzer isn’t terribly surprising. The team will bring back ace Madison Bumgarner and stable veteran Tim Hudson, but Matt Cain is returning from elbow surgery and Tim Lincecum‘s reliability has taken s nose-dive in recent years. Both Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy are free agents. Yusmeiro Petit was excellent in 2014 but totaled only 129 2/3 innings between the regular season and postseason. He’s certainly done enough to warrant a look in the rotation, but the lack of innings could be cause for concern.

In terms of their offensive targets, Heyman hears that the Giants are more likely to go with a cheaper option to replace Sandoval at third base, instead spending bigger on a replacement in left field for Mike Morse. He notes that they’ve taken a “close look” at Upton and have even reached out to former Giant Melky Cabrera, though one team source described Cabrera’s departure from the Giants as “awkward” to Heyman. (Cabrera was suspended for 50 games in 2012 to close out the season as the Giants pushed toward a World Series victory.)

Earlier today I looked at some post-Sandoval options for the Giants, listing several trade and free agent targets that the reigning World Series Champions could pursue.


Orioles Interested In Melky Cabrera As “Fallback Option”

If the Orioles can’t re-sign Nick Markakis, the team’s “fallback option” is to pursue free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Markakis and the O’s looked like they were headed towards a reunion earlier this winter when the two sides were seemingly close to a four-year contract, though there hasn’t since been much progress.

Cabrera posted a .301/.351/.458 slash line and a 125 wRC+ in 621 PA last season in comparison to Markakis’ .276/.342/.386 line and 106 wRC+ over 710 PA, though Cabrera’s defensive deficiencies and fewer plate appearances gave him only a slightly higher fWAR (2.6 to 2.5) than Markakis.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted Cabrera for a five-year, $66.25MM deal and Markakis for a four-year, $48MM deal in his Free Agent Profiles of both outfielders, so signing Cabrera would likely be a more expensive proposition for the Orioles and he’d cost them a draft pick due to the qualifying offer.  If Cabrera’s market is depressed by the QO, however, it’s possible the Orioles could try to sign him for a relative bargain, as they did last winter with Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.

The White Sox and Mariners have also shown interest in Cabrera this offseason, with the Royals more loosely linked to the outfielder.  The door also hasn’t fully closed on Cabrera re-signing with the Blue Jays, depending on how his market plays out.



Rosenthal’s Latest: M’s, Hamels, Kennedy, Markakis, Norris

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new notes column posted looking at a number of situations around the league. Here are some quick highlights…

  • The Mariners are on the hunt for a right-handed bat, but they prefer Nelson Cruz to signing Hanley Ramirez or trading for Matt Kemp. Justin Upton is also somewhere on their wish list and is potentially available. Rosenthal writes that the Mariners “are going to do something” of significance to address that search.
  • The Phillies are doing background work on the makeup of Red Sox prospects Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts and Matt Barnes, Rosenthal hears, fueling some speculation about a Cole Hamels trade. Rosenthal says the Sox are disinclined to move Vazquez or Blake Swihart, however, and previous reports have indicated that the team is loath to consider parting with Betts. As others have noted, Rosenthal feels that Hamels would likely require the Red Sox to exercise his 2019 option ($20MM) in advance, bringing the total he is owed to $110MM over the next five years.
  • The Padres are continuing to listen to offers for Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, with Kennedy being the most likely of the three to go. Kennedy is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $10.3MM in 2015, and the Royals are interested in the right-hander. Rosenthal also speculatively lists the Rangers as a club to watch in the Kennedy market.
  • A reunion between Nick Markakis and the Orioles seemed like a foregone conclusion at one point, but the two sides still aren’t close to a deal and talks are said to be merely “inching along.” Rosenthal wonders what’s taking so long but does note that the O’s are considering Yasmany Tomas and still working with Cruz as well, so it seems fair to speculate that having three options in the corner outfield is slowing the Markakis progress. As Rosenthal notes, the longer the wait, the more likely it is that Markakis explores other options more seriously.
  • Since the publication of that column, Rosenthal has tweeted that the Orioles might be willing to move Bud Norris, who is projected by Swartz to earn $8.7MM in 2015. Norris is a free agent next season but pitched well in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate in 165 1/3 innings. Rosenthal also hears that the O’s have gotten “moderate” interest in Ubaldo Jimenez, although with $38.75MM remaining on his contract, I’d imagine he could only be swapped for another bad contract.

Latest On Nick Markakis, Blue Jays

Sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links) that even though the Blue Jays have had contact with the agent for Nick Markakis, they aren’t seriously pursuing him right now.  Currently, Toronto is prioritizing other outfielders ahead of Markakis.

Meanwhile, Morosi says that the Orioles are still trying to re-sign Markakis, but the two sides are not close on a deal.  Last week, it was reported that there was renewed optimism between the O’s and Markakis’ camp about hammering out a new contract.  That might still be the case, but it doesn’t sound like anything is imminent on that front.  The two sides are said to be discussing a deal that would pay between $10-$12MM per year.

The Blue Jays are also in a similar spot with Hanley Ramirez, Morosi tweets.  Toronto has established contact with the free agent shortstop, but they’re not actively pursuing him at this time.  With Jose Reyes at shortstop, Ramirez, presumably, would be slotted in at third base with Brett Lawrie at second.  Then again, it’s unclear how serious GM Alex Anthopoulos & Co. are about pursuing Ramirez, who figures to be among the most highly paid free agents of the offseason.


O’s, Markakis Optimistic About Rekindled Talks

11:44am: Agent Jamie Murphy tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick that he “feel[s] like Dan [Duquette] does,” explaining that “there is still a lot of work to be done if we are going to reach a deal.” (Twitter links.) Though Murphy said both sides hope to work out a deal, he will continue to engage with other clubs in the meantime.

9:55am: Talks picked back up yesterday between the Orioles and free agent Nick Markakis, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and there is renewed optimism that a four-year pact can be reached. The sides are discussing a deal that would pay Markakis between $10MM and $12MM a year, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who says it “should get done.”

The Orioles’ negotiations with the long-time Baltimore fixture had reportedly stalled, leaving Markakis prepared to test the open market at the GM Meetings. As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported, the sides had been nearing a deal along the lines of what Passan suggests (four years, $10MM-$12MM) before the brakes were pumped.

MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted a four-year, $48MM pact for the 31-year-old outfielder. As Adams explained, one’s view of Markakis’s defensive value goes a long way towards assessing his value. Though defensive metrics have generally pegged him as either a slightly above or slightly below average right fielder, there is a strong undercurrent of support for the idea that teams view him as a plus defender.


AL East Notes: Andrus, Butler, Markakis, BoSox

It would be “the longest of long shots” if the Yankees acquired Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus this offseason, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports.  Andrus’ eight-year, $120MM extension begins in 2015 and the Yankees aren’t interested in paying that type of superstar money to a player who hasn’t yet delivered on that level.  “You would have to hope he turned a big corner if you took on that contract,” an executive tells Feinsand. “If he never gets any better, that’s a lot of money for a good — but pretty ordinary — player.”  Ironically, the Yankees’ long-standing interest in Andrus was part of the reason why Texas extended him in the first place, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  It’s worth noting that Andrus has opt-out clauses in his deal after both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, so the financial commitment may not quite be as lengthy as it seems.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • There isn’t any truth to reports that the Orioles made a three-year, $30MM offer to Billy Butler, a member of the organization tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko.  While the O’s have had interest in Butler, Kubatko feels the team wouldn’t spend that much on a full-time DH.
  • The Orioles will meet with Nick Markakis‘ agent Jamie Murphy today, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter).  The O’s are still seen as the favorites to sign Markakis, though the Blue Jays and other teams are interested in the veteran outfielder.  Earlier this week, Murphy said that the Orioles weren’t one of the several teams he planned to speak with about his client during the GM Meetings.
  • Though Yoenis Cespedes‘ name has frequently been mentioned in trade rumors, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) that those rumors aren’t “based in any sort of evidence. We’re happy to have himWe felt like as we were building a lineup for next year, adding that power element in the middle of the lineup was critically important to us. So now that we have it, we’re not really anxious to give it away. We believe he’s very important in 2015, and 2015 is very important to us.”
  • Cherington spent “an extended period of time” talking with Jon Lester‘s agents last night, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford tweets.
  • The Rays interviewed Giants bench coach Ron Wotus about their managerial opening yesterday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.  Of the ten candidates on the Rays’ list, the team still has to speak to Barry Larkin, Doug Glanville and Kevin Cash before getting into the second round of interviews.
  • In other AL East news from earlier today, we published a collection of Blue Jays notes, the Yankees signed lefty Jose De Paula and the Orioles are shopping right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.

O’s Made Three-Year Offer To Cruz Before Free Agency

7:15pm: Cruz is at the GM Meetings with his representatives, and had a meeting today with Baltimore, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal. It seems likely that he will meet with other clubs while in town, Rosenthal suggests.

6:27pm: Cruz is seeking a five-year contract, and the Orioles have no interest in that length of commitment, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. I’d assume that if Cruz is indeed asking teams for five right now, it’s likely just a bargaining ploy to get clubs to come up to four years as a compromise of sorts.

4:12pm: The Orioles made Nelson Cruz a three-year offer to remain in Baltimore before the 2014 MLB home run leader officially hit the open market, reports Buster Olney of ESPN (Twitter link). The Orioles now feel positioned to wait as Cruz explores his options with other teams, Olney adds.

Olney also reports that Baltimore remains in contact with Nick Markakis‘ camp about a new multi-year deal, though one of the unresolved issues for the two sides is deferred money. Earlier today, executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette told reporters that the O’s have enough financial flexibility to retain both Cruz and Markakis.

Baltimore figures to be one of the primary suitors for Cruz, though he’s also been connected to the Mariners in the early stages of the offseason. Cruz struggled to find a multi-year deal on last year’s open market when he entered free agency with what were then considered to be extremely lofty expectations. Now he’s coming off a .271/.333/.525 season with 40 homers and about 15-16 months between him and his 50-game suspension for PED usage, giving him a considerably stronger case. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Cruz and projected that he would indeed be able to find a fourth year.


AL East Links: Rays Stadium, Duquette, O’s, Marrero, Sox

The Rays are nearing an agreement with St. Peterburg mayor Rick Kriseman that will grant the team permission to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County, report Stephen Nohlgren and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times. Kriseman would like to finalize an agreement within the next month and “definitely before Christmas” so he can present the plan to City Council. If the Rays do leave for a new Hillsborough stadium, the city of St. Petersburg would be entitled to monetary compensation, as the Rays’ current lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Orioles GM Dan Duquette was named Major League Baseball Executive of the Year by The Sporting News, and he spoke with MLB.com’s Paul Hagen about the honor. Duquette, who narrowly edged out Dayton Moore of the Royals, said his focus from day one has been improving the club’s pitching staff. He also addressed the success he’s had in finding value from unheralded minor league signings, and how that success makes them an attractive destination: “…when players sign with us, whether it’s Triple-A or the big leagues, they know they’re going to get an opportunity.”
  • Duquette tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he has enough financial flexibility to sign both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz (Twitter links). He plans to meet with Cruz’s new agent, Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, at the GM Meetings, and the book is not closed on Markakis returning even though he’s meeting with other clubs.
  • The Red Sox are receiving a lot of interest in minor league shortstop Deven Marrero, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (Twitter link). The 24-year-old was the club’s first-round pick back in 2012 and has an excellent defensive reputation, though he batted just .258/.327/.372 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. The Mets, of course, are one team known to be looking high and low for a shortstop.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal spoke with Sox GM Ben Cherington about interest in Marrero, and while he noted that there has indeed been interest, Cherington said it hasn’t been any greater than the interest he’s received in the past. Marrero has drawn steady interest over the years, according to Cherington. As MacPherson notes, however, Marrero is posting particularly strong numbers in the Arizona Fall League this year.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discussed the possibility of the Red Sox acquiring Cole Hamels with Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, and came away with the belief that the team has a shot, even though the Sox are on Hamels’ no-trade list. Hamels doesn’t have any issue with Boston, writes Cafardo, though he’d likely use the no-trade clause as leverage to get his 2019 option picked up in advance, as Ken Rosenthal noted yesterday. The Phillies have scouted Boston’s system extensively and like many of their players.
  • Cafardo also notes that the Sox are receiving quite a bit of interest in Yoenis Cespedes. Boston is “desperately” trying to keep an outfield spot open for Mookie Betts, making a trade of Cespedes possible.
  • The Boston Herald’s John Tomase spoke with Cherington, who stopped short of labeling any of his prospects untouchable, but he made it clear that those who contributed in 2014 (e.g. Betts) are extremely unlikely to be moved, Tomase adds (Twitter link).

Markakis’ Agent To Meet With Multiple Clubs This Week

Talks between the Orioles and Nick Markakis on a four-year deal appear to have stalled, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Markakis’ agent, Jamie Murphy of TWC Sports, will meet with several clubs at this week’s GM Meetings. Asked if the Orioles were among the clubs with whom he planned to meet, Murphy told Connolly, “No, not at this time.”

According to Connolly, the two sides were at one point nearing agreement on a four-year pact that would have paid Markakis $10-12MM annually. However, the agreement was never reached, and the two sides haven’t had any meaningful discussions in a week, Connolly writes. Prior to today, Murphy had been negotiating exclusively with the Orioles, but that has changed, and he’ll now shop for a palatable deal with teams around the league. Connolly tweets that he doesn’t get the sense this latest development has closed the book on Markakis re-signing in Baltimore.

Markakis, who just recently won his second Gold Glove, is coming off a season in which he rebounded from a poor 2013 with a .276/.342/.386 batting line and 14 homers. Though he wasn’t the doubles machine that he was earlier in his career, he still posted a solid OBP and home run totals that are in line with his career norms. I profiled Markakis last month and projected him to sign a four-year, $48MM contract.