Potential suitors lining up for Markakis

With multiple reports surfacing in recent days that a Nick Markakis return to the Orioles is no longer inevitable, multiple teams including the Braves, Blue Jays and Giants are beginning to express interest in the free agent outfielder, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

Each of those three teams has an obvious need for either an outfielder or another strong bat in the lineup. The 31-year-old Markakis is coming off a season in which he posted a .276/.342/.386 line with the O’s, while also winning his second career Gold Glove Award for his defense in right field.

The Braves already traded away outfielder Jason Heyward and are said to be listening to offers for fellow outfielder Justin Upton. That leaves an obvious opening in the Atlanta outfield, while the Braves could also be an interesting fit for Markakis off the field, as he grew up in nearby Woodstock, Ga., went to college in-state at Young Harris College and has a home in Georgia.

The Jays, meanwhile, are known to be in the market for at least one outfielder this offseason, with both Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus testing free agency. Toronto is still open to re-signing Cabrera, though recent reports indicate Cabrera would prefer to sign elsewhere. Assuming Markakis indeed listens to other offers, the Jays could make a strong push for him, especially considering an already thin free agent class got even thinner this week with the Mariners signing Nelson Cruz.

As for the Giants, their interest in Markakis will largely depend on what ultimately happens with Jon Lester. The Giants aren’t necessarily in the market for a top free agent outfielder, but they could use the money saved by Pablo Sandoval leaving for Boston to add another bat in an attempt to compensate offensively for Sandoval’s departure.

The Orioles still remain very much in the mix, especially after losing Cruz on Monday, but it appears that other teams now at least have a shot to lure away Markakis.

— Paul Casella

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