Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette remains hopeful that the Orioles can re-sign outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, and he hasn’t dismissed the possibility of retaining highly coveted left-hander Andrew Miller.
Duquette met with Cruz and agent Diego Bentz yesterday at the general managers’ meetings in Phoenix and could sit down with Markakis’ representative, Jamie Murphy, later today. Nothing is scheduled at the moment, I’ve heard, but there are plenty of hours left before executives fly home.
The Orioles and Markakis appeared to be headed toward an agreement on a four-year deal, but there’s been virtually no dialogue for at least a week.
“We’ve been talking to Nick for a while and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to sign him,” Duquette said today during a live interview on MLB Network’s “High Heat.”
“Yesterday, we met with Nelson Cruz. He’s down here in Phoenix and he looks great. Had a nice chat with him. We’re hopeful that we’re going to be able to do something, but you never know with this free-agent market. Things happen fast and shifting of economics happen quickly, but we’re trying. Both of those guys had good years for us last year and we’d like to continue our relationship with them.”
Could Cruz give the Orioles a discount? Right now, he’s still seeking a five-year deal.
“Nelson did a great job for us,” Duquette said. “He had a great year. He enjoys playing for Buck (Showalter), he likes the ballpark, he likes everything about the city, so we’ll see if we can work a deal with him.
“Nick Markakis, of course, has been there his whole career and I know he likes Baltimore. His family is established there and we’re hopeful of signing him, too.”
Reports out of Phoenix indicate that there’s a huge market for Miller, with teams envisioning him as a closer in 2015.
“Andrew had a great year. He had a really good couple of months for us,” Duquette said. “He’s got the pitches to get out righties and lefties, but there’s an awful lot of interest in him, I’m hearing down here. He likes Baltimore, too. We heard from his family. His wife liked it there. She was very comfortable, so we’re going to try on that one, as well.”
Duquette confirmed what I wrote a few days ago about the Orioles maintaining interest in re-signing veteran left-hander Johan Santana, who’s rehabbing from Achilles surgery and could throw for teams in January. The Orioles will be in attendance, and keeping him in the organization is a possibility.
“Johan is still working on his rehab,” Duquette said. “He’s working under our supervision in Florida, so that’s definitely a possibility.”
The rotation currently has six starters for five spots, and Duquette left no doubt that Kevin Gausman is done being shuttled to the minors. He also confirmed the obvious that Dylan Bundy will begin next season with one of the affiliates.
“He’s going to need a little more time in the minors,” Duquette said. “He’s coming back from the Tommy John surgery. He’s still young. He’s got a great arm, great stuff. Highly touted prospect and I expect that he’ll have a real good year, but I think he’s probably going to start in the minors.
“Kevin Gausman, on the other hand, could be one of the top pitchers in the league. He’s got great stuff, he’s got terrific control. They don’t hit his changeup. He’s got a real powerful fastball and the sky’s the limit for him, and I think this could be a real breakout season for Kevin.”
As Showalter has done previously, Duquette provided a reminder of the three players already in the organization who will return in 2015 after undergoing season-ending surgeries or being suspended.
“We’ve had three good seasons where we’ve been able to win more than we lose and we’ve made the playoffs a couple of times,” Duquette said. “This group, we still have an opportunity for next season. Now, keep in mind we have Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Manny Machado who should be able to come back and help the ballclub early on next season. Having them come back with their capabilities to play defense, to hit and to hit for power, to add them to the group we have I think makes us a very, very strong ballclub.
“Now, we’re going to need also to upgrade our pitching, be strong in the bullpen again. I like our starting pitchers. I like (Adam) Jones up the middle, I like our shortstop J.J. Hardy. They’re Gold Glovers and they can hit. I like the development of Jon Schoop and I think we have the foundation to keep this thing going in Baltimore.
“The fans have been very, very supportive. They’re interested in the team, they’re connected with the team. They’re buying tickets and following us year-round and that will help, too.”