Nick Markakis

Signed: Markakis Joins a Brave New World

markakis

Over the years Baltimore has lost a number of long-time Orioles to free agency. Guys like Mike Mussina who the fans hoped would spend their whole careers in the orange, black, and white uniforms. Right fielder Nick Markakis can now be added to the list, though he didn’t have much choice.

Markakis, who signed with the Orioles after they took him with the 7th overall pick in the 2003 MLB Amateur draft, has departed Baltimore to join the Atlanta Braves after the two sides agreed on a four-year deal. The money has not been officially announced,  but ESPN.com’s Buster Oleny estimates that the nine-year veteran will earn around a total of $45MM. That would represent a pay cut from the $15MM Markakis earned the last two seasons.

The 31-year old became a free agent after the Orioles turned down their portion of a mutual option that would have cost the club $17MM for the coming season. Instead the team bought Markakis out for a mere $2MM.

Though he holds a career .358 on-base pct. and a .436 slugging pct., Markakis’ never reached the offensive heights that the early part of his career might have indicated. Granted, he played on some awful Orioles squads, but Markakis averaged 20 home runs, 45 doubles, and 100 RBI from 2007 – 2009. He hasn’t reached 20 home runs since then and had the worst OPS numbers of his career (.685, .729) over the last two seasons.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Markakis’ superb defense and rocket-like arm. He won his second Gold Glove Award this season after he captured one in 2011. He did not commit an error in either of those two years as well as in 2013, and has made just 18 errors in his career to date. Markakis is expected to replace right fielder Jason Heyward, who was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Shelby Miller, in the Orioles outfield.

The Orioles have lost two outfielders to free agency, with Nelson Cruz having agreed to a deal with Seattle this past Monday.

Nick Markakis among the Orioles All-Time hitters

Hits – 7th
Games played – 13th
Home Runs – 15th
Doubles – 7th
Runs scored – 11th
RBI – 13th
Walks – 11th
At-Bats 10th

Rumor: D-Rob Has 3 Year, $39MM Offer

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David Robertson had the opportunity to be the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, who retired after the 2013 regular season. “D-Rob” took full advantage as the new New York Yankees closer, with 39 saves and better than 13 strikeouts per nine innings. A fine season when your about to embark on free agency as well.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday evening that Robertson has a three-year, $39MM offer in hand. The team that made the offer remains unknown at this time. The Yankees definitely want Robertson back and don’t consider set up man Dellin Betances ready to assume the job. In fact, it would not be surprising if the Yankees signed another closer to a short term deal for when, and if, Betances is ready to assume the 9th inning role.

Heyman and Designated For Assignment agree that the Yankees won’t offer Robertson a guaranteed fourth year, but a three year deal would probably be in the range of $40MM – $50MM. The amount would surpass the $12.5MM average per year of the four year deal Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2012 season.

Earlier D4A reported that the San Diego Padres were talking to the Los Angeles Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp. According to FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal the Baltimore Orioles have also talked turkey with the Dodgers. The Orioles have free agent outfielders in Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis that would “only” cost them money rather than the players they would have to give up to land Kemp.

MLB Preview: The Buck Starts Here

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Manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles are counting on a big season from Ubaldo Jimenez.

by Drew Sarver

Key Acquisitions: Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Webb, Delmon Young, David Lough

Key Losses: Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth, Scott Feldman, Wilson Betemit, Chris Dickerson, Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson

 

In 2011, Manager Buck Showalter took over a club that had only finished higher than fourth place in the AL East once since 1997. A year later, he led the team to a 93-win season and their first playoff appearance since ’97, ultimately losing to the Yankees in the fifth game of the divisional series. Last year, the team won eight less games than in 2011, missed the playoffs, and settled into a third place tie with the Yankees.

The offense revolves around Chris Davis, who finished behind Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout in last year’s AL MVP voting. Despite missing the playoffs, there’s a legitimate argument that Davis should have been the MVP. Davis struggled in his years with the Texas Rangers organization (2006-2011), and wasn’t highly regarded when he and Tommy Hunter were dealt to the O’s for Koji Uehara at the 2011 deadline.

The change of scenery had an impact for Davis in the 2012 season. He belted 33 home runs, drove in 85 runs and recorded a .501 slugging percentage. Last season, Davis reached another stratosphere – an AL- leading 53 HR and 138 RBI, and a 1.004 OPS. It earned him his first All-Star appearance and his first Silver Slugger Award.

The Orioles finished tied for fourth in the AL in runs scored last season, but general manager Dan Duquette signed free agents Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young to give Davis protection in the lineup. Cruz has a history of injuries, mainly hamstring, and is coming off a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic. He’s averaged 27 HR and 81 RBI over the last five  seasons, but has topped 130 games played just once in non-suspended seasons.

At 28, Young is not so young any more and is at a crossroads in his career. His image has been damaged by his off-the-field comments and he hasn’t produced on the field. His lone big season came in 2010, when he knocked in 112 runs and topped an .800 OPS for the only time in his career. He’ll likely platoon in right field with David Lough.

The Orioles will be without the services of their phenom third baseman Manny Machado to start the season.  In his first full season in the Majors, Machado earned an All-Star nod and won a Gold Glove award. The 21-year old tore the medial patellofemoral ligament of his left knee in the final week of the 2013 season. He had reconstructive surgery in October with an expected recovery time of 4-6 months. In the meantime, Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop, and Steve Lombardozzi could see time at third base (as well as second base).

LINEUP

C: Matt Wieters
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Flaherty/Schoop/Lombardozzi
SS J.J. Hardy
3B: Manny Machado (Flaherty/Schoop/Lombardozzi)
LF: Delmon Young/David Lough
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Nelson Cruz

Chris Tillman didn’t look good in his 36 Major League starts over 2009 – 2011, but he impressed in his 15 starts for the Orioles in 2012. That led to a breakout 2013 season. Tillman topped 200 innings, struck out 179 and won 16 games. He needs to cut down on serving up home runs, and control is sometimes still an issue, but Tillman should be able to build off of last season’s success.

He’ll be joined by Ubaldo Jiminez, who the Orioles signed to a four-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50MM. It’s a big risk, considering that outside of the second half of last year, Jimenez hasn’t been good since 2010. Jimenez did post a career-high 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year and cut his wild pitches (8) in half from 2012. The money per year isn’t bad, but the number of years sounds nuts at the moment.

ROTATION

SP: Chris Tillman
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Miguel Gonzalez
SP: Bud Norris
SP: Wei-Yin Chen

Hunter will replace Jim Johnson as closer. He has the tools, but has not had the role of full-time closer before.

BULLPEN

Tommy Hunter
Darren O’Day
Ryan Webb
Evan Meek
Zach Britton
Brian Matusz
Josh Stinson

BENCH

Steven Pearce gives Showalter versatility with the ability to play first base and outfield. The second base/third base triumvirate will have one to two of the three coming off the bench. Steve Clevenger backs up Matt Wieters at catcher. Nolan Reimold continues to struggle in his comeback from a pair of neck surgeries and will start the season on the DL.

OUTLOOK

There are talented players in the Orioles lineup, but neither the pitching nor hitting will provide enough to finish ahead of the big three AL East powerhouses, Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay.