Last night we learned that Nick Markakis is no longer considered likely to re-sign with the Orioles after spending the first nine years of his career in Baltimore.
So where might the 31-year-old free agent outfielder end up? According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com the teams interested in Markakis include the Blue Jays, Braves, and Giants. And the Orioles, too.
At this point it seems all but guaranteed that Markakis will get a big money deal for at least 4-5 years, which is interesting considering his lack of recent production. This past season he hit just .276 with 14 homers and a .729 OPS in 155 games and he was even worse in 2013, hitting .271 with 10 homers and a .685 OPS in 160 games.
Any team signing him is clearly a huge fan of Markakis’ defense in right field and willing to bet big on a return to his 2006-2012 form. Baltimore made Markakis a free agent by turning down his $17.5 million option for 2015.
Torii Hunter wanted to re-sign with Detroit, but the Tigers had no interest and so the 39-year-old outfielder has been talking to at least a handful of other teams.
Hunter makes his offseason home in Texas and Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that the Rangers “have been making a push” to sign him.
Hunter’s defense has gone from Gold Glove-winning in center field to below average in right field, but he continued to hit well this year with 17 homers and a .765 OPS. He’d essentially be replacing fellow free agent Alex Rios in the Rangers’ outfield and lineup.
Mark Kotsay is the Padres’ new hitting coach, replacing Phil Plantier who was fired last month after three seasons on the job.
Kotsay played 17 years in the majors, five of them with the Padres, and retired following the 2013 season. He was a career .276 hitter with 127 homers and a .737 OPS in 1,914 games who frequently had some of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in the league.
Much like pitching coach for the Rockies, hitting coach for the Padres is a tough and perhaps borderline impossible job because of pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Since moving to there in 2004 the Padres have never scored an above-average number of runs and have ranked 12th or worse among NL teams in eight of 11 seasons.
In a move that presumably signals his retirement as a player, longtime big leaguer Carlos Pena has joined MLB Network as a studio analyst for the upcoming season.
Pena was the 10th overall pick in the 1998 draft and played 14 seasons in the majors for eight different teams, including a brief 16-game stint for the Rangers this past season at age 36.
In his prime Pena made up for low batting averages with tons of walks and home runs, averaging 34 homers and 95 walks per season from 2007-2011 while producing an .871 OPS during that span. He finishes with 286 homers, one Gold Glove award, one All-Star appearance, and nearly $50 million in career salary.
ESPN colleagues Buster Olney and Keith Law both have sources saying the Padres are looking to deal catcher Yasmani Grandal, with Olney writing that they “have gotten more aggressive” in those efforts.
Grandal returned from a major knee injury to play well in 2014, hitting 15 homers and posting a .728 OPS in 128 games despite calling pitcher-friendly Petco Park home.
However, his .225 batting average wasn’t pretty and apparently the Padres aren’t big fans of his defense behind the plate, which explains why they’d even entertain trading a 26-year-old catcher with 20-homer power under team control through 2018.
If the Padres trade Grandal they’d presumably turn to Rene Rivera as their primary catcher. He’s a 31-year-old journeyman who logged more than 125 plate appearances in the majors for the first time in his career this season.