Nick is Gone – Now Let’s Find a Right Fielder

kansas city player after just hitting baseball
SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Norichika Aoki #23 of the Kansas City Royals fouls off a pitch in the bottom of the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2014 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Birdland is still in shock at the loss of right fielder Nick Markakis and will remain up in arms until Executive of the Year Dan Duquette signs, or trades for, a reasonable replacement. Although the Orioles fan base was disappointed in Duquette failing to sign Markakis it was a reasonable decision. Markakis’ career is on the downfall and there are free agents who have been hitting better the past few years than he has.

[RELATED: It was Tough, but O’s Made Right Decision on Markakis]

If Duquette lands a deal with any of these three below the Orioles fanbase should be satisfied.

Melky Cabrera

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Giants have expressed the most interest in Melky Cabrera. John Heyman of CBS Sports has also reported that the Orioles are a reasonable spot for Cabrera with the recent departure of Markakis.

Cabrera hit .301/.351/.458 compared to Nick’s .276/.342/.386 this past season while stealing two more bases. Cabrera is not Markakis when it comes to defense but he’s not a Delmon Young either. Although Buck Showalter loves himself some defense, maybe he and Duquette could make an exception for Cabrera. The problem with Cabrera is his health; the past two years Cabrera has played in 227 games compared to Markakis who has played in 315. Cabrera’s .301 avg. is worth noticing but he only had four more home runs than Markakis and knocked in 23 more runs. Not to mention, Markakis was our leadoff hitter so RBI didn’t occur as often for Markakis. The twist is that Markakis had 74 more AB than Cabrera yet had just six more hits. Cabrera is 30 years old and Markakis is 31 so age should be considered when negotiating with Cabrera.

Rosenthal reports that Melky is looking for a five-year deal rumored to be around $66MM ($13.2MM/yr). If the O’s wouldn’t match the Atlanta Braves offer to Nick Markakis of four years $44MM, they won’t offer a more injury prone Melky Cabrera more than $11MM/yr. Melky’s numbers could definitely make a strong case for a few more million dollars than offered to Markakis but his health and age depletes that sort of contract.

Nori Aoki

The Orioles next option is former Royals outfielder Nori Aoki.

Aoki hit a .285/.349/.360 last year. He is a consistent hitter for average resembling Markakis at the plate. They are both left handed hitters and Aoki has yet to hit below .280 in his few years in the majors. Markakis only has 30 more RBI than Aoki does over the past three seasons but it is more than likely due to Markakis having more power. Aoki has little to no power at all but the Orioles do not need power as they have so much already even after losing Cruz to Seattle.

A quality that Aoki possesses is that he could replace Nick’s spot in the lineup as the leadoff hitter.

[RELATED: 5 Potential Options to Replace Cruz & Markakis]

In the 2013 season, Manny Machado was second in the league in doubles so putting Aoki ahead of him with a better OBP and AVG. than Markakis, with 20+ steals, more runs will be produced. Aoki doesn’t possess Markakis’ arm strength but his range and speed cover a lot more ground than Nick can. Another great quality about Aoki is he is durable. Three years in the majors and Aoki has yet to play less than 130 games in a season. So his durability plays a big factor.

Here is the big standout. Compared to Melky’s five-year $66mm deal, Aoki is seeking a deal around two years and $16MM. Aoki is 32 years old asking for very little compared to other free agent outfielders.  If the Orioles are to replace Markakis the best one to do it is Aoki. He resembles Markakis on and off the field.

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Alex Rios

Alex Rios is the third player to consider replacing Markakis.

Going into his 12th year as an outfielder at the age of 33, Rios could be a viable option to take over in right field. He does have the lowest AVG and OBP of the three options listed here this past season which takes away from his value. Even though he had a down year this past season power wise, he did put up 18 HR and 81 RBI in 2013 while maintaining a solid .278 avg. We all know Rios is capable of power and knocking in runs.

He is the only one on the list to hit over 20 HRs in a season.

Even though we can agree Melky Cabrera can hit, he has only hit in over 80 runs once in his career while Rios has done the same feat five times in his very own. Not only can Rios bring a bat, he brings speed. Rios stole a career high 42 out of 49 bases in 2013 so don’t let his age fool you. His speed is something to consider given the Orioles’ lack of stolen bases this past season (they were dead last in the league).

According to Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, Alex Rios is posing for an A.J Burnett-esque contract for around one year, 8.5 million – a very low risk contract with a possible high reward. Even though Rios missed the final month of 2014 he does possess durability, averaging 153 games per season from 2007-2013. He has not gone on the disabled list since 2006. After being with the White Sox and traded to the AL-worst Texas Rangers, Rios is more than likely looking for a contending ball club at this late point in his career rather than searching for a long term contract.

Nobody in Birdland is happy to see Markakis leave, including myself. But instead of sitting back and complaining on the internet or calling into 105.7 whining about Markakis leaving, let’s look to next season and decide who can make the best impact. We have the Manager of the Year and the Executive of the Year in the same clubhouse so let them do what they do best. They must have a plan in store for the Winter Meetings none of us know about.

In the meantime, let’s cheer on the team across the street making a run for a playoff spot!

Who would you like to replace Cruz/Markakis?

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About Eric Himmelheber

Eric Himmelheber
Eric Himmelheber is a Mass Communications major currently enrolled at CCBC (Catonsville). After receiving his Associates degree, he plans on transferring to Towson University to receive his Bachelors. He is also an umpire for the 9-10, 11-12 Catonsville Youth Baseball league setting a record for most foul balls taken to...more

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