Who will be the mystery team for Jose Reyes?

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It’s hard to imagine Jose Reyes joining the Marlins for a relatively light $90 million over six years. Jon Heyman’s proposed $80 million over five years deal from the Mets isn’t all that special either. So, who might yet get involved in the bidding for the shortstop?

Red Sox – Boston may not have as much financial flexibility this year as last, but if new GM Ben Cherington is willing to go with Daniel Bard in the closer’s role, then fitting Reyes into the budget would seem possible. The switch-hitting Reyes would be a terrific fit in between Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez at the top of the order, and the Red Sox wouldn’t have much problem covering for his injuries with either Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie around as a backup (the other would likely be involved in a deal).

Giants – GM Brian Sabean decided to build what will probably be the game’s most expensive bullpen, so it doesn’t look like there’s room for Reyes without the team’s payroll hitting $140 million next year. He’d provide a huge lift at a problem position, though, and give the Giants the leadoff hitter they need.

Tigers – Reyes would be an upgrade over Austin Jackson in the leadoff spot and he’d improve the defense by pushing Jhonny Peralta back to third base, but the Tigers are more interested in adding pitching.

Phillies – There’s little to suggest the Phillies would really consider spurning Jimmy Rollins for a younger but more expensive player.

Angels – It looks like the Angels would prefer to add power, but the idea of signing Reyes and then cashing in Erick Aybar is rather attractive. The Angels got OBPs of .325 and .316 from the top two spots in the order last season.

Nationals – The money is there, but the Nationals probably aren’t going to want to spend it on such an injury-prone player.

Brewers – If the Brewers thought they could get Reyes for $90 million over six years, I think they’d be all over it. The price, though, is likely to be higher than that, and the Brewers aren’t going to want to commit to anything until they’ve ruled out re-signing Prince Fielder.

Cardinals – St. Louis is sort of in the same boat. If Albert Pujols departs, then maybe Reyes would be an option. Reyes, though, may be long gone by the time Pujols makes up his mind. The Brewers are a more likely suitor anyway.

I do believe that one team from this bunch will end up making a big run at Reyes, forcing the Marlins to up their bid if they expect to stay in the running. I’d put Boston first on the list, followed by Detroit.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.