Sources: #Orioles interested in Beltran. Pursuit may hinge on team clearing Wieters or another high-salaried player.Rosenthal also mentioned the other day that the O's were possibly looking to trade Wieters or other players on the team with rapidly rising salaries (such as Jim Johnson). Chris Davis is another guy who fits into that category. Plus, J.J. Hardy's name has also come up in trade rumors.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 15, 2013
But if the Orioles are truly interested in Beltran or someone of his ilk, then one guy isn't being talked about enough as a trade candidate: Nick Markakis. And, as mentioned by Mike Francesa (via Andrew Vazzano of SportsNet New York) just a few days ago, Markakis may be on the market:
Mike Francesa said the Mets inquired with the Orioles about Nick Markakis, but talks didn't go anywhere. #VoteMarkakisApparently the Mets approached the Orioles about Markakis, so who knows if the O's are actively shopping Markakis to other teams. But they may be, for two reasons: 1) Markakis has $17 million left on his contract ($15 million in 2014 plus a $2 million buyout of his $17.5 million club option for 2015), so they would likely need that type of money if they were going to sign someone like Beltran to a multiyear deal; and 2) Beltran has not played left field since 2000 (and he only did so for two games). Markakis hasn't played left field since his rookie season in 2006, and I have a hard time believing the Orioles would sign Beltran and then move Markakis out of right field. Beltran and Markakis are also both limited in the outfield range-wise. Markakis may be slightly better defensively now than Beltran, but that probably has more to do with Markakis being 30 (he turns 31 tomorrow) and Beltran being 36. But Beltran is clearly the superior hitter, and maybe playing for an American League team and hitting occasionally in the DH spot would help.
— Andrew Vazzano (@AVSNY) November 13, 2013
(photo via Keith Allison)
A couple other notes on Beltran, Markakis, and the right field situation:
1. If the Orioles somehow do intend to trade Markakis, a big negotiating point will be how much money they send along with him. $17 million is a lot to spend on someone who put up the numbers Markakis did last season, and there's no chance another team would simply assume Markakis's entire salary, let alone give back anything of value. If the Orioles want to dump Markakis somewhere and also sign Beltran (who made $13 million each in 2012 and 2013), they will probably need to shed some cash another way as well.
2. Signing Beltran means the Orioles would forfeit their first-round pick (17th overall) in the upcoming MLB Draft. I support that decision more than, say, signing Kendrys Morales, but that would still a bitter pill to swallow.
3. Beltran is better than Markakis -- big surprise, I know. Take a look at their career wOBA comparison:
Source: FanGraphs -- Carlos Beltran, Nick Markakis
Beltran had an awful 2005 season (.323 wOBA in his first year with the Mets) before rebounding in a huge way the very next season (.408 wOBA). He's been pretty steady since then, though in 2010 he was slow to start producing again after having knee surgery in the offseason.
Markakis's poor 2013 has been discussed enough on this site. It's impossible to know whether or not he'll bounce back after the worst season of his career, or if this is the type of production (OK on-base percentage, low power) he's going to offer from now on. By all accounts, Markakis was healthy, which is both good (hey, he's healthy!) and worrisome (he played 160 games and was that awful).
If it were just a choice between Beltran and Markakis, Beltran is the pick. But considering the draft pick the O's would forfeit and the cash the O's would need to sign Beltran and send along with Markakis in a potential trade, it's a difficult decision. I would be shocked if Markakis doesn't hit at least somewhat better in 2014, but then again, I'd never thought he'd put together a season like 2013 -- at least not until he was much older.
As Luke Jackson and others have pointed out, if shedding money is that big of a concern for the Orioles, maybe they should just non-tender Jim Johnson. Spending over $10 million for a decent closer is not the best use of resources.