As expected, the Orioles on Friday declined their $17.5 million option for 2015 on right fielder Nick Markakis, essentially making the team's longest-tenured player a free agent.
Markakis will receive a $2 million buyout as part of a six-year, $66.1 million extension he signed in 2009. The Orioles have until midnight Monday to negotiate with Markakis before he enters free agency.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Friday night that the team remains interested in retaining Markakis, who has been one of the faces of the franchise since joining the major league club as a 22-year-old in 2006.
"Nick is a dependable player and the O's would like to continue [their] relationship with him," Duquette said in a text message.
The Orioles have until Monday to extend Markakis, and the rest of their eligible free agents, a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer.
The club likely would make Markakis a qualifying offer only if it's sure he's committed to playing elsewhere. With the buyout and qualifying offer, the Orioles would have to pay him more than the value of his 2015 option. If Markakis signs with another club after being given a qualifying offer, the Orioles would receive a compensatory draft pick.
This is the first time the 30-year-old Markakis, a career .290/.358/.435 hitter who could win his second Gold Glove in November, has been able to test the free-agent market. He likely would be one of the top free-agent outfielders available.
Markakis, one of the franchise's most popular players, is a rare homegrown Oriole, a first-round draft pick in 2003 who rose through the minor league ranks and quickly became a fan favorite. He was coming off back-to-back 20-homer seasons when he signed his six-year extension before the 2009 season, but he hasn't reached that mark since.
Still, he has been one of the club's best all-around players and one of its most dependable. He has played in at least 155 games in seven of his nine years in the majors and has averaged 183 hits in those seven seasons. In the field, he hasn't had an error over the past two seasons while patrolling Camden Yard's tricky right-field scoreboard and corner.
If the Orioles and Markakis do not agree to a new deal, he would join outfielder Nelson Cruz, left-hander Andrew Miller, outfielder Delmon Young, utility infielders Kelly Johnson and Alexi Casilla, and left-handers Joe Saunders and Johan Santana in free agency.
The Orioles likely will announce whether they are picking up catcher Nick Hundley's $5 million club option for 2015 on Saturday. It is expected to be declined.