Mailbag: Markakis move the right one?
Beat reporter Spencer Fordin answers Orioles fans' questions
If Nick Markakis is the cornerstone to the rebuilding process, why weren't the Orioles able to agree on a new contract to keep him happy?
-- Greg B., Richmond, Va.
The Orioles were put in the weird position of keeping Markakis happy and potentially alienating some of his peers, so they chose the path of least resistance and renewed his contract at a nominal raise. The right fielder is almost certain to merit a much bigger contract next season, when he becomes eligible for salary arbitration for the first time.
The point of contention between the two sides appears to be that Markakis wanted to double his salary and make something more in line with his peers, Adam Loewen and Jeremy Guthrie, who had different situations all together. Loewen and Guthrie both signed big league deals out of college and have no option years left, complicating the comparison.
Markakis and the Orioles never really negotiated a bigger deal, and Baltimore wound up renewing his contract unilaterally. Now the O's have to hope that Markakis won't let it bother him for the next four seasons. Baltimore wants to build around Markakis and will likely try to sign him to a multi-year deal, provided that the well remains unpoisoned.
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, can explain the situation better than anyone else.
"The system is what the system is, and you have to make an effort to be fair to everybody," MacPhail said last week. "I think you have a responsibility to follow through and do what you said what you're going to do. This system gives leverage to different parties at different times in the process. Clearly, the clubs have the leverage for a very short period of time in their Major League career, and after that, it swings over to the player's side. That's just the system that both parties agreed to."
I've been watching Scott Moore and he has been producing so far. Is there a chance we will see him in the Major Leagues this year?
-- Christian G., Shreveport, La.
Moore is indeed a favorite for a reserve slot this season, but he's been slowed by an abdominal injury that may give someone else a chance to establish himself. Moore has impressed the coaching staff with his willingness to play different positions and to work at each of them, but the Orioles don't have a starting job laid out for him at this point.
The former first-round pick seems set to start the season as a multi-use reserve at both infield and outfield corners, and he's put in work this spring to make himself a viable option at second base. Moore was productive in Triple-A last season, but he won't get a chance to prove himself in the Major Leagues until the Orioles clear out some of their veterans.
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Second baseman Brian Roberts appears to be the most likely veteran to get traded, but the Orioles may also listen to offers for Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar as the season progresses. Third baseman Melvin Mora has a no-trade clause and would be difficult to deal, but if he starts out quick, Baltimore might be able to convince him to move elsewhere.
Whatever happened to the prospects that the Orioles obtained for Rodrigo Lopez?
-- Mike M., Morristown, N.J.
Both Jim Miller and Jason Burch are still in the organization, but they haven't done much to make the Orioles forget about Lopez. Miller split last season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, but wasn't even invited to big league camp this spring. Burch, meanwhile, missed three months with a shoulder injury and never pitched above Class A.
Miller doesn't appear to be too far away from performing in the big leagues, but he's mired pretty low on the team's depth chart. It would likely take several injuries to other arms to boost him into consideration. Burch is even further away, thanks to his injury-plagued season last year and Baltimore's offseason infusion of young high-impact arms.
Lopez, meanwhile, enjoyed a modest renaissance season with the Rockies before suffering a serious elbow injury that could keep him out for a substantial part of the season. The Orioles likely could've used him to take some starts when they experienced a host of injuries last year, but they decided to cut bait before the season began.
What are the chances that Mike Costanzo could be the O's backup catcher?
-- Don D., Norrisville, Md.
They're not good. The Orioles don't want to scuttle Costanzo's progress by relegating him to a backup role so early in his career, and they don't want to pigeonhole him into a position where he only plays 50 games a season. Costanzo's power will play best in an everyday role, and he fields well enough at the infield corners to be a future starter.
He has caught well enough to enhance his status as a future big leaguer, but not as a full-time backup. The Orioles want Costanzo to go to Triple-A Norfolk and get his strikeouts under control before he makes the big league leap. Having said that, he stands a decent chance of breaking Spring Training with the parent club -- at least temporarily.
Costanzo might be able to temporarily fit into the roster spot assigned to Jay Gibbons, who will start the season on the restricted list. Gibbons will be forced to serve a 15-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and Costanzo might be able to wedge himself into a two-week trial run at the big league level.
Outside of that, the Orioles will let Costanzo continue his linear progression. The former second-round pick has moved from level to level in his brief professional career and has thrived everywhere he's been. Now, following two offseason trades, he has to establish himself in a new organization and force the parent club's hand in terms of a promotion.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.