Note To Orioles Fans …. Nobody Is Untouchable – Including Markakis

June 02, 2010 |

Every few days I’ll broach the subject of TRADING NICK MARKAKIS and predictably I’m chastised and criticized. No problem …. I can handle it.

And, God knows I can defend the argument.

Let me begin by stating that I consider Nick Markakis a very good Major League player. He’s a relatively consistent performer. His character is unquestionable. He’s durable and dependable.

As I said, he’s a good ballplayer.

In fact, Nick Markakis is most certainly the Orioles most guaranteed commodity if they’re interested in improving the team’s depth through trades with other organizations. A prospective suitor knows what to expect from Nick – on and off the field.

I’m of the mind that YOU GOTTA GIVE VALUE if you want value in return. Thus, I look at the Orioles roster and concede the name “Markakis” will bring the most value to a franchise that desperately needs position players and offensive depth.

The Orioles are just four months away from confronting a dilemma which potentially exceeds the abortion unfolding on the field these days. The 2011 season offers vacancies at first and third base, as well as shortstop.

That is …. unless Andy is content with Miguel, Moe and Jack. I’m sure they’ll all return for an encore and a few million bucks.

I think it’s quite logical to suggest the Orioles are in a spot where every prospective method of improving the starting lineup and overall depth must be tabled. This includes DRASTIC, high risk gambles. It is what it is …. and the Orioles, as an organization, have backed themselves against a wall.

Yeah, it would be unpopular with fans and even questioned by media sources, but the Orioles should gauge the market for Nick Markakis. I’m not saying they should pull a deadline deal, before July 31st. Trading a player of Markakis’ established pedigree is not an urgent, pull of the trigger deal.

Better yet, it’s the type of deal that materializes after methodical consideration during the course of a couple months, prior to Christmas. And, if the value isn’t offered, keep Nick Markakis in an Orioles uniform.

But, they should consider it.

What could the Orioles receive in return? That’s the unknown. You can bet big league executives don’t value Markakis to the lofty extreme of Baltimore fans. But, he’s worth a couple legitimate “Major League Ready” blue chip infielders.

I’m sure some readers are looking at this and saying “NO MORE PROSPECTS” !!!! What do you want …. a couple “upside” guys who’ve toiled in the bigs for a few years? I know, you want a bonafide star in return, right? That defeats the purpose of trading Nick.

A primary goal in trading an established outfielder of Markakis’ credentials would be to acquire two prospective positional contributors. Of course, a mitigating motive is that finding a serviceable outfielder to replace a “Nick Markakis” is simply easier than finding third basemen and shortstops who hit for average and power.

As I said, if Markakis is traded, the Orioles would suffer an immediate backlash from fans. Okay. How will the fans exercise their discontent? Let me guess, they’ll stop coming to the games. That’s already happened – with Nick Markakis in the lineup.

People are not returning to Camden Yards until the team starts winning, again. With that known, the team should consider all avenues, including the prospect of trading a popular outfielder.

The Orioles caved to fans on the latest Brian Roberts deal. He should’ve been dealt two seasons ago.

Indeed, the Orioles gotta hope a Markakis trade nets the next “Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore.” It’s happened. I’ll acknowledge that such lucky finds are few and far between. But, the Orioles need to gamble – PERIOD.

That said, the gamble isn’t a back breaker. The team is bad WITH Markakis. And, he’s NOT the caliber of player Baltimore fans believe.

Your heart’s involved.

I hear it all the time …..

“Nick is all we got.”

“Nick and Brian are the only homegrown position players of the last decade.”

“Nick is five tool.”

Yeah, and what has his presence brought to the team? Nick is good and/or very good at many baseball qualities. But, is he dominating in any particular area? Being a dominant player is what regards someone as “untouchable.”

Nick Markakis is not untouchable.

Last Friday, a caller – I believe it was Mark in Parkville, said Nick Markakis is a “Top 10 Major League Outfielder.” I don’t doubt he believes this. And, this is a prime example of overvaluing your own commodity.

He’s a damn good ballplayer, but there are 20 outfielders who are better than him. They produce more, offensively. They’re respectable, defensively.

It doesn’t mean I would trade Markakis for all the players I consider better producers. Some are near the end of their career. But, they’re better – TODAY. Here’s the list …..

Andre Ethier

He has really developed into an impressive ballplayer. The power is there – homeruns and doubles. Ethier was enjoying a TRIPLE CROWN caliber season, until a recent injury. He’ll return and post better season numbers than Markakis, regardless of the DL stint.

Ichiro Suzuki

I’m really going out on a limb, huh? Ichiro is only among the handful of best players in the game. He’s played 9 full seasons and has 9 Gold Gloves and All Star appearances. He’s also led the American League in hits during 6 of those seasons. At 36, he’s off to a great start and showing no signs of slowing down.

Jacoby Ellsbury

The premier leadoff hitter in the game? The Boston Red Sox have certainly suffered due to his injury. Ellsbury can play any outfield position and he covers as much territory as anyone. He’s a spark plug, owning a career .347 OBP, while stealing 50 and 70 bases, respectively, over the past couple seasons.

Alex Rios

If Nick Markakis was waived by the Orioles would another team pick him up? Of course. Alex Rios was dumped by the Blue Jays, last season, because he made too much money for their liking. They gave him away – for NOTHING. Rios was having a poor 2009 season.

That said, he’s 29 and has outperformed Markakis in every season, with exception to 2009. Perhaps, the real QUESTION is why didn’t the Orioles pickup Rios? They were ahead of the White Sox in the waiver order. He’s making an average of $12.5 million over the next 5 years. And, he’s a true five tool player.

Matt Kemp

His career statistics in five seasons are comparable to Markakis. Why is he better? His numbers are increasing every season and Markakis appears to have hit his plateau. Kemp is a bonafide stud player.

Ryan Braun

No denying this one, huh?

Jason Bay

He’s 31 years old and averages just as many homeruns, per season. Throw in 100+ RBI and double digits of steals. Bay is a threat to homer every time he steps to the plate.

Nelson Cruz

The Rangers outfielder finally arrived in 2009 – 33 homers and 20 steals solidified Cruz as a true offensive threat. Cruz is currently dealing with a hamstring issue, but he still has three times as many homeruns (10) and his 7 steals to Markakis’ 1 is evidence that he’s more explosive on the bases. Cruz is also hitting for a .327 clip.

Matt Holliday

Yeah, he could’ve been Markakis’ partner in the Orioles outfield for the next five years. But, that’s a conversation for another blog. Holliday owns a .327 career batting average, along with 28 homes, 43 doubles and 15 swipes annually. There is no comparison …..

Carl Crawford

As with Ryan Braun, must we even debate this one?

There ya go, that’s TEN. Sure, I could’ve named more. I think the injured Carlos Beltran and Grady Sizemore are better than Markakis. Adam Lind, who splits time between DH and rightfield, is definitely a better hitter.

And, I think Jayson Werth, Jason Heyward, Denard Span and Jay Bruce are absolutely as good and productive as the Orioles outfielder.

Aside from all these personal comparisons, Nick Markakis’ basic offensive statistics rank him slightly above the norm, for 2009 and 2010. The average offensive numbers among Major League outfielders in that time period:

2009 – .269 AVG, 167 Hits, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 16 SB

2010 – .266 AVG, 53 Hits, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 6 SB

In 2009, Markakis finished above average in HITS, RBI and BATTING AVERAGE, while below average in HOMERUNS and slightly below average in STEALS.

In 2010, it’s still early, but he’s achieving above average numbers HITS and BATTING AVERAGE, and he’s below average in HOMERUNS, RBI and STEALS.

Does this concern me? Yes.

While I realize Nick Markakis or any player might not achieve above average statistics in every category, I do think it’s fair to suggest FRANCHISE or UNTOUCHABLE players excel in all these categories …. or they’re quite dominant in at least one of them.

Nick Markakis just isn’t that type of player. Yet, many Baltimore baseball fans would cringe at the thought of moving him for a prospectively better package. And, yes, I said “prospectively.”

That’s where the Orioles find themselves.

This team is not competing in 2011. Do you see any reason to believe they’re competitive in 2012?

Meanwhile, they have a good rightfielder (a homegrown product), who can be counted on for 15-20 homers (he better GET STARTED !!!!) 40 doubles and a .290 batting clip. That’s it.

He has stopped stealing bases.

He hasn’t really progressed in the power category.

He is not a vocal leader – he talks about as much as Harold Baines.

Yet, Nick Markakis is a commodity. Competitive teams can and will view him as a player who could blossom in a more productive lineup. Those teams are also more likely to see his upside while he’s in his late 20’s and with 5 years of security.

Are the Orioles going to shop for a deal when he’s 30 years old and earning $15 million, per year? His contract is back-loaded. Good luck finding a trade partner when the dangled player hits less than 20 homers and steals less than 20 bases – AND HE’S EARNING $15 and $17.5 million, respectively in 2014 and 2015.

NOBODY will trade for a 30 year old player with such inabilities.

Perhaps, this blog’s remarks will yield “the Orioles need to acquire hitters to surround Markakis.” That’s a fair and logical statement – and I’ll agree with it.

Prince Fielder ??? Check.

Adrian Gonzalez ??? Check.

Billy Butler ??? Check.

“John in Mt. Washington” called Tuesday’s REX & RAY SHOW and suggested the Orioles acquire the above 3 players. Well, they could surely use one of them – but, the other two would just be too highly paid for the designated hitter role. As much as I think the Orioles need to spend money, committing $20 million per yer, to Gonzalez or Fielder, to DH, is illogical.

I’m suggesting the Orioles gamble and consider trading Nick Markakis for a a couple “Major League Ready” infield prospects. But, I’ll also fathom the thought of a gamble that Markakis will blossom into an even better hitter, if surrounded by legitimate sticks.

It’s one gamble or the other.

But, one thing is for sure …..

Nick Markakis is NOT a franchise player. Trade him or surround him. Just don’t leave him exposed in this lineup.

It reduces his ultimate value and that of the team.