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Nick Markakis's agent is meeting with other teams, but not the Orioles, this week

The Baltimore Sun reports that Nick Markakis' agent is meeting with other teams, but not the Orioles, in this week's GM meetings in Phoenix. It's not time to panic yet.

Leon Halip

Depending on your feelings about Nick Markakis, the news that his agent will be meeting with other teams, but not the Orioles, during this week's GM meetings in Phoenix could prompt wildly different reactions. The idea of Markakis signing elsewhere could be cause for panic or sadness, or the realization that some other team might be doing the Orioles a favor, saving them from themselves.

The dynamics of the situation remain unchanged. The Orioles and Markakis's side had been discussing a possible extension for a little while. We can suppose that, with no deal being reached, the Orioles did not value Markakis as highly as his side thought he could be valued. The best way to settle that is to explore what other teams are willing to pay for him. It sounds like that will happen this week, according to The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly.

If they were interested in retaining Markakis no matter what, they could have picked up their half of a 2015 mutual option for $17.5 million. They declined that option, paying $2 million in the process. They could have extended the qualifying offer to Markakis, a one-year, $15.3 million contract for next season. They did not do either of these things, perhaps out of a fear that Markakis might have taken either one and they would have been stuck with a higher price tag than they were willing to pay.

The idea of the longest-tenured Oriole just departing like that in free agency makes me a little sad. That doesn't mean that retaining him at any cost would be the best way to improve the team. If some team out there wants to pay him so much more money than the Orioles that he would take that offer elsewhere, that's his choice to make. If another team wants to overpay him compared to what he his recent performance warrants, that's up to them, too.

Connolly, who quotes Markakis' agent Jamie Murphy directly, reported that Murphy would not say what teams he is meeting in Phoenix this week, other than that he doesn't have one scheduled with Dan Duquette as of now. This makes sense. Murphy has heard the best the Orioles are willing to offer by now. Not much need to talk to them again until he gets a sense of the market.

It's easy for me to say since it's neither my money being paid or my salary being negotiated, but it seems like the best move for both parties would be Markakis re-signing with the Orioles. Markakis has played most of his career on loser teams. Switching franchises now that the Orioles are winning only opens him up to getting stuck on a loser team again. As an arriving free agent elsewhere, he'd end up being just another mercenary to some other team's fanbase, rather than one of a team's special players just by virtue of being himself.

Markakis is clearly popular here, evidenced by the vocal segment of fans who seem to think he should be retained at any price whatsoever. No team should act solely because some fans think something should be done, but there's clearly some good will to be retained if Markakis is also retained.

Given that Markakis has always been reported to be personally popular with O's owner Peter Angelos, it's seemed inevitable all along that they'd find a way to bring him back. Even if Markakis departs, this probably does not have the dynamic of, say, Mike Mussina heading elsewhere. Markakis isn't so good that he'll warrant interest from so many deep-pocketed teams, for one, but also, Angelos is less likely to stubbornly insist Markakis take less money.

This is not a player who's old and breaking down in the way that Brian Roberts was when the Orioles didn't pursue him last year. Markakis is just... what is he, even? If they signed him for three or four years, what could they expect by the end? This is his batting line over the last two years: .274/.335/.371. Salary inflation is a real thing in baseball, but has it inflated so much that kind of player is worth $48 million over four years in this market?

Maybe it is. If I was either Markakis or Duquette, I'd be having heartburn over the choice. I'd also have a lot more money no matter what was about to happen, so maybe that wouldn't be so bad.