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Less than 50-50 chance that Nick Markakis returns to Orioles, sources say

Want to put odds on whether Nick Markakis returns to the Orioles? Sources say it's less than 50-50 now.

For the first time this offseason, it appears more likely that free-agent outfielder Nick Markakis will sign elsewhere than rejoin an Orioles team he has been with since he debuted in 2006.

According to multiple sources, there now looks to be less than a 50-50 chance that the 31-year-old will return to the Orioles, something that seemed to be a virtual certainty a month ago.

Shortly after free agency began at the end of October, Markakis and the Orioles were involved in serious negotiations on a four-year deal worth roughly $10 million to $12 million annually. But at some point in mid-November the negotiations grinded to a halt, and there have been only a few conversations since then.

The sides talked Nov. 12 in Phoenix during the general managers’ meetings and agreed to continue the conversation. Although some national reports had a deal close, both club executive vice president Dan Duquette and Jamie Murphy, Markakis’ representation, said there was more work to be done.

That work hasn’t gotten done, however, and there has been no discernible movement toward a new agreement, according to multiple sources.

Although the specific holdup is not known, there has been some talk within the Orioles organization that the club is no longer comfortable with a four-year deal for Markakis. If that’s the case it would explain why the negotiations have halted, since it is believed the sides had agreed to the length of the contract early on in discussions.

The lack of movement with the Orioles has prompted growing interest from several other clubs, which initially assumed Markakis ultimately would return to the Orioles. And, with baseball’s annual winter meetings beginning next week, it appears that the outfielder’s focus is now shifting toward signing elsewhere.

Markakis is one of the headliners in a weak outfield class — one that was weakened further Monday with reports that former Oriole Nelson Cruz has agreed to a four-year deal worth a total value of $58 million with the Seattle Mariners.

Drafted in the first round by the Orioles in 2003, Markakis made his debut in 2006 and is currently the Orioles’ longest tenured player. He said repeatedly during the season that he wanted to remain in Baltimore, where he makes his home year-round.

In 2014, Markakis hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 50 RBIs in his first full year as a leadoff hitter. He played in 155 games, something he has done in seven of his last eight seasons.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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