The Atlanta Braves are bad. They won just 67 games a year ago and are a team looking to rebuild. The trades of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel last offseason were evidence of that. The recent deal that sent Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to Los Angeles cemented it. But one move that has stuck out like a sore thumb through this whole scenario has been the contract of the now-32-year-old Nick Markakis.
Last December, Markakis agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal. He was coming off an OK season with Baltimore, but had injury concerns and was noticeably losing his ability to hit the baseball with power. Why would a team looking to get younger and less expensive sign a hobbled, over-priced outfielder who's best days were behind him?
Now the Braves trade A.Simmons. Tell me again why they signed Nick Markakis to a 4-yr deal?— Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) November 12, 2015
Well, that is a question that a lot of sports writers are asking again this offseason. If the 26-year-old Simmons is gone, why would Markakis be safe? And if Markakis isn't safe, where is he going to be sent? Hey, Baltimore needs outfielders and the front office kind of wanted him back last year. Why couldn't he go back there?
Would the Orioles pursue a reunion with Nick Markakis? - School of Roch: In case you lost count, the Orioles a... https://t.co/vkPoNG7gMv— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) November 15, 2015
The good Nick
OK, I will play along and just say that I do understand where the idea comes from. Markakis is a corner outfielder and the Orioles desperately need corner outfielders. The team and the player, I assume, have a good relationship given that he played in Baltimore for nearly a decade. Also, to my knowledge, he still has a home in Monkton, Maryland, just a short trip down I-83 from the city. All good points on a personal level.
Markakis's performance on the field was not so terrible in 2015. His .370 on-base percentage, .296 batting average and 38 doubles would have all been the best on the Birds last year. His 70 walks would have been second-best (behind Chris Davis). Those are numbers the O's could really use out of a lead-off hitter, which they never really had all season.
As for the salary, is $11 million really that much? The Orioles were concerned about his ability to stay on the field. Well, he played in 156 games this summer. That's 20 more than Adam Jones, who is regularly praised for his durability.
The bad Nick
The guy only hit three home runs last year. That's it. The Orioles may be losing Chris Davis, the reigning home run king of baseball. This is a team that has been notoriously bad at scoring runs when they don't hit the ball out of the park. Three home runs isn't going to cut it. His slugging percentage of .376 in 2015 would be fine for a second baseman. It won't work for a corner outfielder.
On top of that, his range has diminished in the field. FanGraphs has it down that he cost Atlanta seven runs with his arm and posted a Zone Rating of -3.4 over 1330.1 innings in right field. Part of Markakis's value as an Oriole was that, despite his reputation for having spaghetti arms, he had an accurate arm and won two Gold Gloves during his time there.
But back to the reason Markakis is even brought up. He is a corner outfielder and the O's pretty much put everyone and anyone in left and right field for most of the season. It's doubtful they will want to do the same again in 2016.
Gerardo Parra was a disappointment after coming over from Milwaukee at the trade deadline. However, he made a positive impact on those in the organization and he seems to be someone the club wants to bring back at the right price, which will probably be less than what Markakis is making now.
Yes, the outfield free agent market is flush with talent. Man, it would be great to see someone like Jason Heyward in the orange and black, but don't get your hopes up. Signing Parra would probably be considered a major move by the front office. The cash would then need to be used in the rotation or at first base. Meanwhile, someone like Nolan Reimold may be given ANOTHER chance to shine in left field. If it's not Parra that signs, look for the interest to be in a player like Nori Aoki or Denard Span, not a Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon.
If the Orioles wanted Markakis that bad, they would have signed him prior to last season. If they bring him on now, he will be in Baltimore until he is 35 years old and will still have that same questionable neck that he had a year ago. It sets up everything they were already worried about, except now they would be down a minor leaguer or two in the process.
That brings up another angle. Who would the Orioles give up? Markakis is not a bad player and the Braves would be right to ask for a semi-decent prospect. The Baltimore farm system is pretty bare so it would probably be one of their top 10 or 15 guys. Can they really afford to empty the pantry out even more than it already is?
And would the Orioles be able to squeeze some money out of the Braves? If so, how much? The more they send, the better the returning prospect will have to be. It becomes quite complicated to do business for a player that the team already had a chance to sign and chose not to.
Overall, this whole thing has probably been blown out of proportion. Atlanta is rebuilding and pretty much everything not nailed to the ground is for sale. It was natural that Markakis and Baltimore would be linked. Let's all just chill out. My guess: that $11 million will be used somewhere by the Orioles, but it won't be on Nick Markakis.
Thanks for reading! You know how I feel, what are your thoughts on Nick Markakis coming back to Baltimore? Let me know in the comments down below or on Twitter @_TyYoung.