Update: FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal may have answered my questions:
In March 2013, Markakis, 31, was diagnosed with a small disc herniation in his neck. And even though he appeared in 160 and 155 games the past two seasons, his condition and diminished power gave the Orioles pause, according to major-league sources.
When the Orioles let Nelson Cruz go to Seattle, I understood it. They set their offer at three years and decided that if another team exceeded it, they would let him walk. It made sense and I think the Mariners will overpay the 2014 home run leader in his final year of that contract.
With Nick Markakis, who just signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Atlanta Braves, the O’s strategy is less clear to me. Actually, I don’t get it at all. That’s not to say that I disagree with them deciding to let Markakis walk. In fact, I’m more confused about what the Braves are doing (trading Jason Heyward, non-tendering Kris Medlen, signing Markakis), than the O’s.
But it sounded like Dan Duquette and the Birds were comfortable offering a four-year deal earlier in the offseason. The $10-12 million average annual value also seemed to be in their wheelhouse. Then, suddenly, it appeared that they had backed away from that fourth year and were only comfortable going to three.
What changed? Why did they decide they were only comfortable going with a three-year offer? Did the O’s underestimate the open market? Did they find something about Markakis that they hadn’t seen before?
Markakis, the longest tenured Oriole and a fan favorite, has seen his defensive skills decline in recent years and has never quite been able to repeat that power potential he showed in 2008. As FanGraphs.com’s Mike Petriello and BSR’s own Connor Guerico have shown, there are plenty of affordable outfielders that can replace his production in Baltimore.
I’m just wondering what the Orioles philosophy was in this negotiation.