O's, Markakis reach deal

Standout right fielder's contract extension, pending physical this week, worth $66.1 million over six years

January 20, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

The Orioles have reached a six-year, $66.1 million contract extension with right fielder Nick Markakis, according to baseball sources. He will be in Baltimore tomorrow to take a physical and sign the contract.

The deal, pending the physical, will keep one of the organization's building blocks with the Orioles through at least the 2014 season. It will include standard incentive clauses, a limited no-trade clause - in which he can block a deal to at least eight teams each year - and a mutual option with an unspecified team buyout for the 2015 season, according to sources.

In terms of guaranteed money, it will be the second-most expensive contract in Orioles history, behind only the six-year, $72 million pact given to shortstop Miguel Tejada in December 2003.

"I'm really not at liberty to discuss [where the negotiations are]," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said yesterday.

MacPhail said Sunday that the two sides were close to a deal but "not quite there yet." Team officials traditionally don't comment on a deal until the physical is completed and the contract has been signed.

Jamie Murphy, Markakis' agent, declined to comment yesterday, and Markakis, 25, didn't return phone calls. The Orioles are planning for a news conference, likely Thursday, to announce the deal.

Both sides had hoped to reach an agreement by today, when agents and teams report arbitration figures to the commissioner's office. Markakis is in his first year of arbitration. The two sides will still exchange numbers because the deal won't be official before Markakis passes a physical, but the figures will become moot by week's end.

Pitched around often last season, Markakis hit .306 with 20 home runs and 87 RBIs. He set career highs in batting average, runs (106), doubles (48), walks (99), on-base percentage (.406) and slugging percentage (.491). He led the majors with 17 outfield assists.

Markakis, whom the Orioles drafted seventh overall in 2003, is a .299 hitter with 59 homers and 261 RBIs over three seasons with the team.

The news of his imminent extension was well received by Markakis' teammates.

"Every dollar that he gets, I think he deserves it," center fielder Adam Jones said. "The guy puts up numbers. He's a great defensive player, great in the clubhouse. I'm happy that the Orioles locked him up. He just got married, has a baby on the way. I'm happy as hell for him."

First baseman Aubrey Huff, who heard the news while at teammate Brian Roberts' wedding Sunday in Phoenix, called Markakis to congratulate him.

"This had to be done if you ask me, and kudos to the front office for getting it done," Huff said. "If you're looking long-term, he's the key cog. He's proved his worth. It's a step in the right direction, a commitment. It's no secret we're playing in a tough division. If you're going to compete, you have to make the right moves. That was one of the smartest moves they've made since I've been here."

It also allows MacPhail to turn his focus to other issues, including the long-term status of Roberts, the two-time All-Star second baseman who will be a free agent after this coming season. The Orioles offered Roberts a three-year deal worth $30 million, according to baseball sources, but the two sides remain apart in the negotiations.

MacPhail, who has maintained the whole offseason that his goal is to extend - not trade - Roberts, wouldn't comment on the negotiations yesterday but said, "We certainly have time to discuss that."

Still hoping to upgrade the rotation after Sunday's trade of Garrett Olson for Chicago Cubs outfielder Felix Pie, MacPhail made a small move yesterday. He traded nonroster right-handed reliever Randor Bierd to the Boston Red Sox for right-hander David Pauley.

Designated for assignment with the Red Sox's signing of John Smoltz this month, Pauley, 25, went 14-4 with a 3.55 ERA in 25 starts with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2008 and is 56-52 with a 3.91 ERA in 177 minor league games (174 starts) in eight seasons. Pauley went 0-1 with an 11.68 ERA in six games, including two starts, for the Red Sox last season.

Pauley is out of options, but MacPhail said he will be given a chance to make the rotation out of spring training.

"His record speaks for itself," MacPhail said. "He has good command, is a ground-ball pitcher, which is attractive to us. He's young, and we can put him in the mix for a starting role."

Bierd, 24, whom the Orioles plucked from the Detroit Tigers' organization in the 2007 Rule 5 draft, went 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in 29 big league appearances last year. However, he was never the same after going on the disabled list for 2 1/2 months with right shoulder impingement May 2. The Orioles also have a plethora of right-handed relievers, which was the main reason Bierd wasn't going to get an invite to major league spring training this year.

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