I don’t know what the Atlanta Braves are doing this winter. They just signed former Oriole Nick Markakis to a four-year deal worth $44 million.
Source: OF Nick Markakis agrees to four-year deal with Atlanta Braves. Dollars unclear, but sides discussed a deal in neighborhood of $44M.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 3, 2014
When people hear the name “Nick Markakis”, they’re likely thinking of the guy who was a lock for 40 doubles, and an outside threat at mashing 20 homer. They’re thinking of a guy who hits for a high average, and can steal a base or two. Hell, they’re even going to bring up his defense and how he’s won however many Gold Gloves, as if that matters a lick when evaluating a player.
Of course, Nick Markakis hasn’t been that guy in quite awhile. He hasn’t hit 40 doubles since 2010, and has only crossed 30 once over the past four seasons. He’s only hit 20 homers twice in his career, and hasn’t hit more than 15 over the last five seasons. His defense, which peaked in 2008 with a +22 DRS and an 11.9 UZR, has vacillated between “average” and “ghastly” – since that landmark 2008 season, Markakis has posted a positive UZR once and a positive DRS twice.
And let’s not mince words here – there isn’t much upside here. Markakis just turned 31 years old, and the Braves will be paying him $44 million for his age 31-34 seasons. You’re paying for years past his prime. Markakis isn’t suddenly going to turn it around, especially when he’s a dead pull hitter at this point in his career. Check out these maps of his home runs over the last three years, with Turner Field overlaid onto them.
That’s seven homers that wouldn’t have gone over the wall, or nearly 20%. And yes, the Braves are getting a new park – for the 2017 season. The Braves still have to play out the 2015-16 string at Turner.
This whole thing is just confusing. Markakis isn’t some sort of buy low, great value player – he’s expensive and aging, and that’s not a good combination for a team that is supposedly working on a tight budget. If Atlanta truly is determined to trade Justin Upton (and the Mariners just traded Michael Saunders to Toronto for J.A. Happ, opening up a spot in the outfield) and play Evan Gattis in left field, poor B.J. Upton is going to get worked to death in center, if he’s not excised to a penal colony somewhere.
The Braves weren’t contenders in 2014. They lost 89 games. And adding Nick Markakis and Shelby Miller to a roster that has already lost Aaron Harang, Jason Heyward, and Ervin Santana isn’t going to suddenly make them contenders. I can at least understand trading Heyward, an impending free agent for Miller, a young, controllable pitcher. But to do that, and then sign a 31-year old, declining corner outfielder to a four-year, $44 million deal? It just doesn’t jive with me.