BALTIMORE -- The Orioles watched Nelson Cruz agree to a four-year pact with Seattle, and fans started to wonder if Nick Markakis would be the next free agent to leave. And while that's a possibility and will remain one until Markakis is off the market, the O's aren't counting out a return for the longtime Baltimore outfielder.
"Rumors of our demise are largely exaggerated," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of a report Monday that claimed the odds were "less than 50-50" of Markakis returning. "We are still working on a number of different ways to staff our outfield. I am confident we will be able to find some good options."
Markakis appeared likely to return to the Orioles earlier this offseason, with the two sides on the verge of a new contract shortly after the postseason ended. But it never got done, prompting Markakis' camp to look elsewhere and talks to stall last month.
There is rumored interest in Markakis from other clubs, with CBSSports.com citing the Braves, Blue Jays and Giants among them, but Baltimore hasn't given up on keeping the 31-year-old.
The Braves reportedly had dinner with Markakis in Monkton, Md., on Monday night, according to the Baltimore Sun. A Monkton resident who is active in the community and a favorite of owner Peter Angelos, Markakis' status with the O's doesn't really change with the Cruz signing, as the two have different skill sets.
"Nelson is more of power hitter, Nick's strength is his ability to get on base," said Duquette, who noted earlier this offseason that the club had enough resources to try to sign both players. "Nelson did a great job for us and he got a good contract. So we have to be cognizant of replacing his presence in our lineup."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.