The days of Nick Markakis as an Oriole may not be done quite yet. Though the team is expected to decline his $17.5 million option for next season, the Orioles and Markakis' agent have had discussions about a new contract with the team, according to MASN's Roch Kubatko. They are expected to continue into next week.
It's not surprising that there would be mutual interest in bringing Markakis back to Baltimore, if the price is right. This is the only team he's known for his whole career and things are better now. He is the longest tenured Orioles player, the last one remaining from that stellar 2006 O's team that included the likes of Sendy Rleal and Kurt Birkins.
That has to be worth something to a player, rather than just being cast into the wind, into a team that may not be as good and into the clutches of a fanbase to whom he'll only be some mercenary free agent, rather than the veteran in the clubhouse. For just the same reason, Markakis is probably worth a bit more to the Orioles than he would be to anyone else.
Whether all of that amounts to a new contract is something else entirely. MLBTR's Steve Adams projected that Markakis would receive a contract of four years and $48 million on the open market. If the Orioles slap a qualifying offer on Markakis, he is projected instead for a contract of three years and $39 million.
The qualifying offer of about $15 million, combined with the $2 million buyout the Orioles will pay for declining the 2015 option on Markakis' contract, would add up to the O's still paying Markakis about $17.5 million to play here next year. That's if Markakis takes the qualifying offer. The market is not robust. If a team needs a right fielder, Markakis is probably one of the top couple of options out there, which is crazy to think about to someone who watched him struggle to a .685 OPS just in 2013.
In offering a QO to Markakis, the hope by the O's would be that he would decline it in favor of a multi-year contract for more guaranteed money. Then, as the kind of free agent who might be hampered by being tied by draft pick compensation, it might be best for both parties if he re-signs with Baltimore. As Roch writes, "A hometown discount has its limits." But there probably is the potential for a hometown discount.
If I was soon to be 31, the security of several years and tens of millions of dollars to remain in the only franchise I'd ever known would sound pretty good to me. I actually am soon to be 31, although I am in no danger of being worth tens of millions of dollars to any business entity any time soon. So, you know, probably a little tough for me to get in that mindset.
It's not an exaggeration to say that if Markakis remains in Baltimore, he'll finish his Orioles career as one of the best in franchise history. We ranked him at #22 in our Top 40 Greatest Orioles list before the 2014 season. If he gets another 3-4 years here, he'll only be moving up. He's already played in the 9th-most games in O's history, sits 13th for bWAR among position players, 6th in hits, and so on. If he re-signed with the Orioles and played in 450 more games over three years, he'd be fifth on the games played list.
Do you want to see Markakis back? In case you haven't looked, there's not exactly anyone storming up from the minors to replace him. What's he worth to you?