If I were a fan of the Baltimore Orioles or Milwaukee Brewers, I would count on hating the current front office crew in about five years. That's right, I am willing to predict that Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis and Milwaukee Brewers first basemen Prince Fielder will not be with their current team in five-to-seven years.
These predictions are from the controversy stemming from their contract disputes in the off-season. With the numbers both of them put up last year, they deserved to get paid this offseason, but they did not. Instead, they had their contracts renewed for one year each and they are both being paid less than $1 million. The teams need to show loyalty to their players. To quote my dad, both of these players were "low-balled."
Let's look at each of these cases individually.
I am beginning to think I have a mancrush on Nick Markakis. Actually, I would like to take this opportunity to officially announce that I, DJ, have a mancrush on Nick Markakis. There.
Anyway, I have been watching Markakis steadily move up through the Orioles organization. I always bring this up, but I saw him play Single-A ball, and even then, he was amazing. When he was placed in right field on Opening Day in 2006 by Sam Perlozzo, I knew the future had arrived. Markakis was the Orioles lineup at some points this year and he is one of Major League Baseball's rising young stars. The Orioles need to keep him. Renewing his contract for one-year, $455,000 does not show that they want to keep him. I hope the Orioles realize that they are playing in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox. I would hate to see Markakis patrolling the Pesky Pole in Fenway next to Jacoby Ellsbury or in right field at the new Yankee Stadium next to Melky Cabrera. I want to see him next to Adam Jones in Camden Yards. Playing these two teams many times during the season adds intrigue into Markakis to the potential of playing there.
So kill that potential, pay the man.
Here are Markakis' stats from last year:
They compare favorably to J.D. Drew:
J.D. Drew is making $14 million.
Markakis is making $455,000.
That ain't right.
Now let's look at Fielder. Now, Fielder is not the physical specimen of say, Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, but the man can hit the ball... far. When I first heard of young Prince Fielder, it was in Michael Lewis ' Moneyball, where Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane painted an unflattering picture of him. Because of that, I did not have the best thoughts about Fielder when I first started seeing him play. After seeing him play multiple times however, my viewpoint has totally changed. The man can play. David Ortiz is aging. The Red Sox are going to be in the market for a DH in the next few years. Teams and general managers know that Fielder is the ideal choice for an American League DH in the future. What is there to stop the Red Sox, the Yankees, or even the Angels from signing him to a huge deal the small market Brewers cannot match? I know the Brewers are a low budget team, but if they were to sign Fielder to a long-term deal now, they would be able to negotiate a shorter deal later in time so they will be able to keep him for his prime. The Brewers need to pay Fielder if they want to contend.
Fielder's stats from last year:
They compare to Paul Konerko.
Konerko makes $12 million.
Fielder makes $670,000.
To me, the Orioles and Brewers need to follow the lead of the Colorado Rockies, who signed young Troy Tulowitzki to a six-year, $31-million contract with the same or less service time as Markakis and Fielder. For both of those guys to see someone with less time than them make more money than them, that has to hurt. The Orioles are committed to rebuilding (or at least trying to be). Lock up Markakis. Put him next to Jones in the outfield. Markakis needs to be the centerpiece of the Orioles rebuilding process. I have heard talk of the Orioles contending in four-to-five years, which would put Markakis in his prime. Markakis is necessary for the Orioles to win. Peter Angelos, be loyal to your team and players. Sign the man.
As for Fielder, the Brewers need him for the future too. Put him in the lineup with Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, and Rickie Weeks, and you have something special. If the Brewers want to be able to outplay the Cubs for the NL Central crown, they will need Fielder anchoring their lineup, the Red Sox or Yankees lineup.
Sign these men.