Braves Play It Safe and Keep Nick Markakis

Everything here is always handled on a case-by-case basis, but there are certain free-agent contracts that get signed that just don’t rise to the threshold where we feel like it’s worthy of a post. Martin Perez recently signed one of those contracts with the Twins. Wilmer Flores recently signed one of those contracts with the Diamondbacks. Jordy Mercer signed one of those contracts with the Tigers. Matt Adams signed one of those contracts with the Nationals. Editorially, some moves have it, and some moves don’t. You sort of know them when you see them.

Interestingly enough, Nick Markakis has now signed one of those contracts with the Braves. Or, you’d think so, based on the terms — Markakis will make $4 million in 2019, and then there’s a $6-million club option for 2020, with a $2-million buyout. This is in that money range where we frequently ignore the transaction. But Markakis is again going to be a regular player. And he’s also coming off a year in which he made the All-Star Game for the first time in his 13-season career. It’s almost impossible to suggest the Braves aren’t getting a team-friendly deal. Markakis was evidently willing to take a discount. This just isn’t the impact move Braves fans have been looking for. It’s re-signing a 35-year-old Nick Markakis.

Markakis’ age didn’t work in his favor as a free agent. Neither did his modest power, nor his second-half decline. It always made sense that both parties might circle back, given their mutual familiarity. The Braves had a gaping hole in the outfield. They had hoped that Adam Duvall might take over in a corner, but nothing he did in 2018 went in a positive direction. They ultimately settled on Markakis, and Markakis ultimately settled on a return. He’s not going to start 162 games again, but he’ll probably come awfully close.

I don’t think it’s fair to focus on a bad second half without spending equal time focusing on a strong first half. Markakis was, overall, a good baseball player. By our calculations, he was worth 2.6 WAR. He’d been worth 3.1 WAR the previous three seasons combined. A repeat year is unlikely, but at least the Braves know the profile will remain unchanged. Markakis is one of the game’s more consistent contact hitters. He just ranked in the 77th percentile in expected wOBA, and over the past three years, he ranks in the 64th percentile in the same stat. He’s a fine hitter with limited upside beyond. He’s still a capable, if unspectacular, defender on the grass. There’s not that much necessarily separating Nick Markakis and Michael Brantley, and Brantley got $32 million from the Astros.

What Markakis doesn’t offer is star potential. He’s going to be a steady, line-drive hitter, who’ll probably experience age-related decline. Markakis plugs a hole, but he doesn’t turn right field into a strength. Braves fans are eager for a new strength, given what’s going on in their division. At least this shouldn’t close many doors.

I’ll also say that perhaps the Braves made their splash when they landed Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is, of course, a risk to get injured, but according to our Steamer/600 projections, he’s baseball’s 15th-best position player, at 4.4 projected WAR. Manny Machado‘s at 4.8. Bryce Harper’s at 4.7. Donaldson is sandwiched between Carlos Correa and Aaron Judge. He could end up being one of the most significant moves of the winter. Just because it happened a while ago doesn’t mean it isn’t still relevant.

Yet the Braves still have work to do. Markakis is one cheap answer to one question. The team payroll, though, is still a little below where it was entering the last two seasons. What this move doesn’t affect is any Braves pursuit of J.T. Realmuto. It probably makes it a little more likely the Braves pursue a reunion with Craig Kimbrel. And/or they could decide to target a starter. Re-signing Markakis isn’t the sexiest move the Braves could’ve made, but you can’t make a splash with every decision. All this effectively does is rule out Harper and A.J. Pollock.

Sometimes the easy answer is the boring answer, and sometimes the boring answer is right enough to submit. This is one thing the Braves can cross off their to-do list. That list is by no means completed.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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The Guru
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The Guru

Man things are getting really ugly. Here you have a player who is a 3X Gold Glove outfielder (2011,2014,2018), a 2018 All Star, and a 2018 Silver Slugger award winner signing for only 4$MM. unbelievable. Never would anyone have thought it would get this bad…….a right fielder who put up 2.6 fWAR and 3.4 bWAR last year will only cost $4M and zero prospects in 2019? insane

Icebox
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Icebox

I completely agree…with your first sentence.

Nick Markakis seems like a good dude, and I wouldn’t begrudge him getting more from somebody, but this will be a massive disappointment for analytically-inclined Braves fans if it’s the only thing they do to address RF in the midst of a big NL East arms race.

And don’t forget, his big payday was the four-year deal he signed before this one. He got a shot at free agency at a time when he had some upside left. This isn’t the bellwether you think it is.

Kevbot034
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Kevbot034

In all honesty though, Markakis is a decent fit for the baby Braves still, I believe. He’s not going to be a 2.6 WAR guy again, most certainly, but you have improved significantly at 3b and LF (by virtue of that amazing kid playing all year) already. Markakis will keep getting some hits and drawing some walks and (not) reaching some fly balls. He’s boring, but if you get another 1.5-2.0 WAR, it isn’t a black hole and he’s dirt cheap. He’s also not blocking anyone on that deal. Who knows how his clubhouse leadership impacts the youngsters (can’t be measured), but stuff like that is useful still. Never expected to rant this much about Nick Markakis, sorry. Just move along…

Icebox
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Member
Icebox

I don’t disagree with any of these specifics. But the Braves should aspire to something more than “not a black hole,” especially since they seem to have the resources (in both cash and prospects) to take a damn shot at it , at least.

Kevbot034
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Kevbot034

That’s fair, but I’m not sure this really impacts that at all. If they trade or sign someone, I don’t see him blocking them, and he slots into a a backup RF/LF easily enough with Acuna the backup CF. I don’t know, I get feeling disappointed with a small move, but it fills a hole with competence, however short.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
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Roger McDowell Hot Foot

Plus, while I get the fan frustration (it’s been a boring offseason), I don’t see the urgency for the Braves to spend lots more of those dollars and prospects on position-player upgrades this year. The aging curve is going to provide them with all the upgrading they need. If I were the Braves and I wanted to push more chips in on 2019 — which isn’t even something I’m convinced they ought to do, strategically — I’d be doing it on the pitching side.

DBA455
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DBA455

From 2015-2017, across 2000+ PAs, Markakis was a 99 wrc+ player.

From June 1 through season-end 2018, across another 450 PAs, Markakis was a 99 wrc+ player.

That doesn’t mean that a strong April and May don’t count.

But if one hasto estimate how he hits next year, as a 35 year old, it wouldn’t be for something *greater* than a league average hitter. Silver Slugger notwithstanding.

And while I am happy for him he has those Gold Gloves for his trophy room, he’s also graded out as a negative defender pretty consistently on both DRS and UZR – as a corner OF.

I don’t think this is a bad deal for ATL by any stretch. But, particularly in light of the “he took less to stay here” comment that was linked to above, I hardly think this is some referendum on the state of contemporary free agency.

Unless, of course, you have a narrative and you’re willing to jam a story into it facts be damned.

You wouldn’t be the first.

DBA455
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DBA455

Also – while it’s perhaps technically correct that he’s “signing for only 4$MM”, I don’t think that’s the best kind of correct.

In deals like these I think it’s more instructive to think of it as a 1x$6M contract with a 1x$4M club option to follow. Even if the timing of the latter $2M is deferred a year, it is guaranteed.

IE, there is no circumstance under which Markakis gets “only” that $4M.

For my money, this wasn’t even the biggest bargain/surprise of the day. If Asdrubal can play 2B or even 3B passably, the Rangers did quite well for themselves.

I think this Markakis deal probably serves as a reasonable template for an Adam Jones deal. Maybe even a little more than what Jones could command. Unfortunately, I don’t get the sense that Jones sees it that way. (And given that he’s a 5x All-Star, I suspect The Guru may not either).

The Guru
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The Guru

Was he an all star last year and silver slugger and gold glove last year? That’s what I thought.

The Guru
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The Guru

You can try to spin it how ever you want but I didn’t make up the 2.6 and 3.4 war calcs. That’s what he put up LAST YEAR and he getting paid 4$mm. Add in a gold glove. Just crazy.

fuster
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fuster

none of us will know if it’s crazy or not until Markakis plays the games.

this crap about a gold glove is absurd. he’s never played more than an average right field, to be generous. catching all the fly balls hit close to where you’re standing doth not a good outfielder make.

Markakis played the most games in RF last season and made the most putouts.
he showed up for work every day and made all the expected plays.
only this and nothing more

Tulkas
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Tulkas

Right, this is obviously a below-market deal, even in this current free agent environment. This is a more a story of a 35 year old knowing his career is winding down and making decisions about something other than money. Nice enough for the Braves, though I can understand if fans are a bit disappointed if they go quiet after this.

Pepper Martin
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Pepper Martin

Here’s something that’s lost in a Fangraphs-analytical analysis about Markakis which is absolutely insane to me, and something I can’t believe doesn’t get more coverage:

Markakis has always been an extremely durable player. Other than when he was injured in 2012, he has played in at least 155 games every year since 2007. Older players get injured more, sure, but he has a long and unbroken history of being good to go basically every single day. Let’s assume, hypothetically, that Markakis can stay healthy for a few more years. Not an unreasonable assumption. Let’s just assume, for the sake of this hypothetical, that he manages to stay healthy and play full time through his age 39 season, and then retires just before he turns 40. It’s maybe not the most likely scenario, but it’s at least plausible, certainly.

Let’s throw out his 2018; it was a better year than he’d had in a while, and let’s just assume it was a blip. In 2016, he had 161 hits. In 2017, he had 163 hits. Let’s split the baby and say he averages 162 hits per season from here on out. He had 185 last year, and 181 in 2015, so 162 isn’t terribly unreasonable, even if it is maybe a high-end estimate.

Given these optimistic but not completely beyond-the-pale assumptions… Nick Markakis would retire with 3,047 hits.

3000 hits has always been an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame, unless you’re associated with PED’s. Every single eligible player with over 3,000 hits is in the Hall of Fame, except Raphael Palmeiro (I expect Alex Rodriguez to be another exception in a couple of years when he’s eligible). Even players with marginal Hall of Fame cases who got over 3,000 hits made it in (Lou Brock, for example). The Hall twice dodged a bullet on having to assess whether marginal players who wouldn’t get any support absent 3,000 hits should get support, once by Doc Cramer being blocked from a starting job for a few years as a young player, and again when people stopped giving Johnny Damon contracts. If Markakis were to get to 3,000 hits, he would fall roughly between those two — significantly worse than Damon, significantly better than Cramer — but what in the world would happen with his Hall of Fame case? He’s clearly not worthy, but 3,000 hits (like 300 wins) has always been automatic for induction… I’m genuinely curious.

carter
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carter

No chance.

Nats Fan
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Member
Nats Fan

He’d have a stronger case than Harold Baines

bndj88
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bndj88

Especially if one or two of those hits happened at the right moment in Braves playoff run… Narratives can change quickly.

tung_twista
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tung_twista

After reading the first two sentences, I thought this would be a joke commenting on the absurdity of GG and SS.

Jay Dee
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Jay Dee

Its 6 mill and the only conspiracy theory that exists is in your head – You are NO longer payed for past trophies/accolades in todays MLB, get use to it

SteveSherman161
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Member
SteveSherman161

You no longer get paid for what you did in the past. You also don’t get paid for what you’re going to do in the future. Nice time to be an owner, eh?

bosoxforlife
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bosoxforlife

You look like you need some support. He must be the first player who had a 3.4bWAR the previous season to sign for such an amount. Even Chris Young got $6.5M from the Red Sox in both 2016-2017 for about 0 bWAR. It is astonishing to watch what is happening.