On Wednesday long-time Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. The Orioles longest tenured player was not only a fan favorite but a clubhouse favorite.
I’ve argued against the importance of a clubhouse presence in the past mainly regarding the trade of Yoenis Cespedes from the Oakland Athletics to the Boston Red Sox last season. Then again when Cespedes was traded you didn’t have tweets of outrage and dispair from the other players.
It’s something you expect of the fans but not of the other players. Tweets from center fielder Adam Jones and closer Zach Britton expressed what is supposedly the sentiments of the both the other Baltimore players and the fans.
U don’t want my opinion!!!!!!!!
— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) December 3, 2014
Markakis was a fixture in the Baltimore clubhouse as well as in the community. Certainly he will be missed but the Orioles, who were in talks with Markakis in November, backed off and let him walk.
They didn’t even seem to think he was worth a $15.3 million qualifying offer which also means that they do not get a single thing upon his departure. Had they at least offered him the year-long contract they would have gotten a draft pick from the Braves had he still walked.
The Orioles seem to think that the 31-year old Markakis is on the decline and his last two years worth of numbers at the plate may indicate a that.
He did not have a good year at the plate in 2013 batting .271/.329/.356 by far the worst season offensively of his career but still well above average. He bounced back a bit in 2014 batting .276/.342/.386.
Also criticized has been his lack of extra base hits. Markakis doesn’t have as much power as was believed when he was a rookie but he hit 40 or more doubles each year from 2007-2010. That number has declined significantly to the averaging in the high 20’s instead.
Yet, Markakis hasn’t faltered in the field.
Markakis has had a total of 18 errors attributed to him in nine season. He’s won two Gold Glove Awards post 2010 when he’s said to have been in decline. If he’s getting better in the field it means he’s not exactly slowing down.
That doesn’t mean he won’t. Markakis will be almost 35 at the end of his contract with the Braves at the same time 35 isn’t exaclty anicient either.
So will the Orioles regret letting Markakis walk? Or will the Braves find that by 33 or 34 that Markakis has lost his leadoff man power?
Personally, it appears that the Braves won, for now at least. They got a quality starter in Shelby Miller and a promising pitcher in Tyrell Jenkins when they traded leadoff man and right fielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals.
Now they get Markakis to replace him in both spots without having to give up a draft pick or any players. Plus, they only committed four years, not ten.
The Braves still have the option of playing Evan Gattis in left field and B.J. Upton in center. They can then trade Justin Upton if they find a piece that they need to add to the puzzle. It appears the Braves are trying to get ready to make a run in 2017 when their new ballpark has opened.
It seems like the Orioles are more serious about keeping their team young and hopefully competitive for a considerable span of time. They didn’t try very hard to get any of the top veteran outfielders when they absolutely need outfielders.
Rumor has it and this makes sense due to their unusually strict health policy, Orioles paused talking with Markakis because of bulging disk in neck. He’s had it for the past two years which have not been his best years.
He remained durable though, playing in 160 games in 2013 and 155 games in 2014 and his career average is still at .290. Most teams make due with much worse than that.
Markakis’ agents had an independent evaluation of his neck done and showed it to both teams who obviously had very different reactions to the evidence put in front of them. The Braves deemed it a non-issue and closed the deal.
Markakis will not be the same player in four years (neither is Albert Pujols but that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Angels signing him to a much larger deal) and his numbers likely will decline but he seems like he’s well-liked, amicable and could be a good influence in the clubhouse and with younger players.
It won’t hurt them that much if Markakis doesn’t produce as much offensively in 2018. The Orioles are the ones who seemed to have lost out on this deal. They may regret not fighting harder for their left-handed right fielder.