Monday was a huge news day in baseball, although not so much on the Orioles front.
From the best I can glean, there have been no breakthroughs with Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz or Andrew Miller.
But it’s possible that at least one of the moves made Monday could affect Markakis. And another could affect Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. Who knows? Maybe a third move will one day make an impact on third baseman Manny Machado.
Let’s start with Markakis.
On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals dealt pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to the Atlanta Braves for right fielder Jason Heyward and pitcher Jordan Walden.
The Cardinals were one team rumored to have interest in Markakis, the free-agent right fielder who has spent his entire career with the Orioles. They needed a right fielder and, frankly, Markakis seemed like a perfect fit for the Cardinals: Understated, substance over style, a ballplayer.
But the Cardinals have found their right fielder in Heyward. And though that may seem like good news for Orioles fans who want Markakis to stay in Baltimore, a hole in right just opened in Atlanta.
Markakis spent most of his formative years in Woodstock, Ga., about 30 miles north of Atlanta. One of the big selling points in re-signing with the Orioles is that Baltimore has become home for Markakis. He’s a simple guy, a homebody, in a sense. He likes being comfortable in his surroundings. Atlanta, unlike most cities, could offer that comfortable familiarity.
The question is whether the Braves are in a position to offer a four-year deal in the $10 million to $12 million range or beyond to land Markakis after dealing Heyward -- since the feeling was the Braves didn’t think they would be able to re-sign Heyward after 2015.
At the least, it’s an interesting scenario that wasn’t conceivable last week.
There’s also the theory that the Braves will move catcher-outfielder Evan Gattis to left field full-time, switch Justin Upton from left to right (or deal him) and hand the starting catcher job to 23-year-old Christian Bethancourt to see if he can handle it.
If that happens, the Braves would be worth watching again next offseason.
Because if Bethancourt proves he isn’t ready to be a starting catcher, the Braves will be in the market for one. And Wieters is a free agent at the end of 2015.
I’ve always contended that Wieters (like Markakis) isn’t the kind of guy who has to go to the highest bidder. He’ll get paid handsomely, but the situation and location are going to be important to him.
And, when it comes to Wieters, the only place that I think can compete heartstrings-wise with Baltimore is Atlanta. Wieters is from South Carolina, grew up a Braves fan, attended Georgia Tech and lives in Atlanta.
The only question is whether the Braves would have an opening at catcher. But they let Brian McCann walk and could move Gattis to the outfield. That would leave Bethancourt or a gaping hole at catcher. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there.
Perhaps more of a pressing concern for the Orioles is another catching development that occurred Monday. The division rival Toronto Blue Jays signed Russell Martin, 31, to a five-year deal that was reportedly worth $82 million. It’s comparable to the five-year, $85 million contract the New York Yankees gave McCann, who will turn 31 this February, last offseason.
Wieters, who will be 29 in May, will be the top free-agent catcher next winter. He’ll be younger than both McCann and Martin were when they hit the open market. So you have to figure five years and $80-plus million is a starting point for Wieters, who missed most of 2014 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
Wieters said last week that he is right on schedule with his rehab and expects to throw a ball either later this month or early next month with the goal of being able to play games in spring training.
If he is healthy and has a good year in 2015, Wieters could be looking at a deal potentially worth six years and $100 million. That sounds steep, but if Martin is worth five years and $82 million -- which is $16.4 million per year -- who’s to say someone won’t give a younger Wieters one more year at $16.7 million per year to reach $100 million? For that matter, he could get even more.
So, yeah, Martin’s contract can’t be viewed by the Orioles as a good thing when it comes to Wieters.
The other big news Monday was the Marlins agreeing to a monster, 13-year, $325 million deal with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. He’s only 25 and a great player, but a 13-year contract is mind-boggling; the Marlins have trouble keeping players for 13 months.
Anyway, this one has potential for almost no Orioles runoff unless one day in the future they sign Machado to a mega-deal. No matter the money, they could call it a bargain based on the Stanton contract.
One more thing on a personal note: I learned Monday that Cincinnati Reds scout Jeff Taylor passed away at age 58 after battling cancer for less than a year. Taylor, who lived in Wilmington, Del., was a fixture at Camden Yards for years because it was the closest American League ballpark to his home.
He was a true gentleman and will be missed by so many in the game. A former minor league pitcher who also played quarterback at the University of Delaware -- I just learned that fact Monday -- Taylor had a great knowledge of, and instinct for, baseball.
I remember when the Orioles hired Buck Showalter, and I asked Taylor what he thought since he and Showalter were teammates in the Yankees’ system together. Taylor told me: “They just hired the right guy. I guarantee it. If he can’t turn them around, no one can.”