Orioles decline their half of the 2015 mutual option for Nick Markakis

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The Orioles announced on Twitter that the organization has declined their half of the 2015 mutual option, worth $17.5 million, left on the contract of outfielder Nick Markakis. Instead, they will pay him a $2 million buyout, making him a free agent.

Markakis, who turns 31 in November, hit .276/.342/.386 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 710 plate appearances, helping the Orioles reach the ALCS for the first time since 1997. Markakis batted .258 in 31 post-season at-bats against the Tigers and Royals.

Markakis joins a free agent outfield class that includes former teammate Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Torii Hunter, and Michael Cuddyer.

Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife gives birth

Zack Wheeler miss starts
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.

Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”

Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.

The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.