The baseball offseason is predictably hilarious for Baltimore Orioles fans. While the Boston Red Sox are out spending nearly $200 million on free agents, the O’s have been quiet. Even Nick Markakis, the longest tenured player on the 2014 roster, remains on the open market. Just like last season, fans have already grown restless, taking to Twitter to commend the Red Sox for their spending spree, while criticizing the Orioles for not wanting to improve.
I remember reading similar disparaging comments when the Orioles signed Delmon Young last winter. Young, of course, slashed .302/.337/.442 over 255 plate appearances as a bench player for the Birds last year. He also came up with the most exciting hit I’ve ever witnessed live, a bases clearing double during game two of the ALDS. (I watched it again while writing this post. Still awesome.)
But let’s go back to Markakis for a second — I’m fascinated that the club has allowed him to remain on the open market for so long. His close connections to the franchise are well documented. Markakis lives in Maryland during the offseason, runs a local non-profit organization with his wife, Christina, for distressed children and seems beloved by Buck Showalter. I figured an extension would be a slam dunk.
We know that Markakis’ agent, Jamie Murphy, is seeking a four-year deal for his client, who just turned 31 years old. Steve Adams at MLBTradeRumors.com projects that Markakis’ deal could be in the $48 million range ($12 million AAV).
According to FanGraphs.com’s value figures (which converts WAR to a dollar scale based on what a player would make in free agency), only one of Markakis’ last six years was worth more than $12 million. That year was 2014 ($13.6 million). Based on this trend, it’s safe to assume that $12 million AAV would be an overpay for the value Markakis would bring to the Orioles over the duration of his next contract. As much as it pains me, the owner of a Markakis jersey and a fan since his debut in 2006, to come to that conclusion.
If the Orioles are looking to replace Markakis’ production at a cheaper value, they should look no further than free agent right fielder Nori Aoki. Check out how the two players compared offensively last season:
*Baseball-Reference WAR used for the chart above.
The Orioles wouldn’t lean on either players’ power abilities, but instead would be looking for a strong ability to get on base to set up the 2, 3, 4 hitters. Aoki’s .349 OBP in 2014 would be his strongest attribute to the O’s.
Markakis won a Gold Glove in 2014, but has never been noted as a stellar defender according to the advanced defensive metrics. Aoki ranks slightly worse than Markakis in those same categories. Here’s how the two compare in the field:
*Baseball-Reference dWAR used for the chart above.
Aoki projects to sign a two-year, $16 million deal according to Charlie Wilmoth at MLBTradeRumors.com. He’ll be 33 in January and was valued at $10.5, $8.1 and $12.4 million over his last three seasons respectively.
The fans don’t want to hear it, I don’t even like writing it, and honestly, no one could ever replace Markakis and his awesome offseason hairdo. But, if the Orioles can’t come to an agreement with Markakis, Aoki could be a cheaper short-term option for them in 2015.