Cruz, Miller to enter free agency as O's season ends

Slugger wants to return, likely seeking multiyear deal; lefty may close elsewhere

Cruz, Miller to enter free agency as O's season ends

KANSAS CITY -- The Orioles' season officially ended Wednesday, and with it, the immediacy of free agency looms for a Baltimore club that will look to build on a 96-win season and its first American League Championship Series appearance in 17 years.

There are also some tough decisions to make. Having already locked up shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $40 million contract extension, the Orioles have two key players set to file for free agency in outfielder Nelson Cruz and reliever Andrew Miller. There's also the inevitable case of Nick Markakis, who has a $17.5 million mutual option for 2015 that the club will decline in hopes of working out a more affordable multiyear deal.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

"I don't know. You never know," Markakis said of his future. "Baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. Take some time off and see where that ball goes."

Markakis, who will get a $2 million buyout when the option is declined, would become a free agent for the first time in his career. However, there remains optimism on both sides that the Orioles can get a deal done with their longest-tenured active player.

Cruz and Miller look to be much tougher cases. Cruz, signed to a one-year, $8 million bargain deal that paid off handsomely, will be one of the jewels of this year's free-agent crop and early indications are that his camp is seeking a four- or five-year deal. Cruz wanted a multiyear deal last winter, but when his stock dropped, he ended up in Baltimore. The O's explored preliminary extension talks around the All-Star break, but those fizzled. While the Orioles will be one of many teams interested, it's unlikely they'd commit to the 34-year-old for that length of a contract.

"I want to come back," Cruz said. "But we will wait and see what happens."

Cruz, coming off a 40-homer season, praised the organization Wednesday, and there's a chance the two sides can get something done. If this past offseason showed Cruz anything, it's that waiting things out isn't always the best move. Still, expect the slugger, who recently switched agencies, to file for free agency and the bidding wars to start soon after.

Miller, a Trade Deadline acquisition from the Red Sox, was dominant for the Orioles and is expected to price himself out of Baltimore and land a multiyear deal as a closer. As a setup man to Zach Britton, Miller was arguably the O's most dominant reliever.

The Orioles have two club options that look to be no-brainers for next season in lefty starter Wei-Yin Chen ($4.75 million) and reliever Darren O'Day ($4.25 million), who were both key components of this year's club. Catcher Nick Hundley, acquired in an in-season trade with the Padres, has a $5 million option with no buyout that the O's are unlikely to elect, though they would like to keep him in the organization if possible.

"I think we as a team, as a franchise, we put together a little run of success here," O'Day said. I hope we had the resources to bring some of these guys back. These are the guys who got us there. There's some smart guys up there [in the front office]. They will figure it out."

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.