Would the Orioles be willing to reunite Nick Markakis? And would the Braves be open to moving him?
Down in Lake Buena Vista on Tuesday morning, Peter Gammons tweeted that the O’s had expressed interest in reacquiring their former right fielder from Atlanta, but that the Braves hadn’t shown interest in a potential trade.
Orioles tried to talk to Braves about reacquiring Nick Markakis.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 1, 2016
As the Braves rebuild and look toward the future, trading an expensive and aging right fielder makes sense given the direction of their franchise. After the 2014 season, Atlanta moved Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel and Evan Gattis. Then this winter the club continued their roster overhaul by dealing Cameron Maybin, Shelby Miller, Andrelton Simmons and Christian Bethancourt.
I’m assuming Markakis didn’t think he’d be a part of a complete tear down and rebuild when he signed that four-year, $44 million deal last offseason. So why wouldn’t Atlanta look to deal him back to Charm City?
Nick Markakis' walk up song is Back In Black. Gotta be a hint of a possible trade, right?
— BalSportsReport (@BalSportsReport) March 1, 2016
For starters, the $33 million that’s he’s owed over the next three seasons is a huge obstacle. Markakis slashed .296/.370/.376 last season and homered just three times. He was worth 1.6 WAR (FanGraphs) in 2015, which equated to $12.4 million in free agency. In other words, he was worth more than his $11 million salary for the Braves last season.
However, ZiPS projects that he’ll take a step back this season with a .276/.343/.366 slashline and 0.7 WAR. Though the average was up last season, you could argue that much of that had to do with his .338 BABIP, a career high. The league average was just .299.
Markakis also went from being worth 1 defensive run saved in 2015 to -6 DRS in Atlanta last season. In 2014, Inside Edge scouts reported that Markakis fielded 88.9 percent of unlikely plays. That percentage dipped to 21.4 last season.
With the defense declining and offense taking a step back in 2016, would is it worth it for the O’s to pay the remaining $33 million on his contract into his age 34 season?
A potential deal would also depend on the piece that they O’s have to send back to Atlanta.
Given the fact that the Orioles farm system ranks 27th in Keith Law’s rankings on ESPN.com and produced zero Top 100 prospects on Baseball America’s list in 2016, I have to imagine that they won’t be too willing to move a real valuable piece for a 32 year old corner outfielder with a bad contract. Which would mean they’d likely have to take on most of Markakis’s deal. After spending over $280 million this offseason ($214 million on free agents), maybe that won’t be an issue for the Orioles front office.
Maybe it will. After all, they didn’t want to shell out $44 million ago. Would they be cool spending $33 million on him now?
With all that said though, Markakis would be a pretty solid solution for the Orioles’ glaring hole in right field. Right now the job appears to be Mark Trumbo‘s or Nolan Reimold‘s. Both have their limitations.
Markakis has nine years of experience fielding in Camden Yards, obviously knows the clubhouse and could serve as the leadoff hitter they were hoping to get before Dexter Fowler decided at the last minute he wanted an opt out after one year.
He’s got 1,371 plate appearances in the leadoff role with a .294/.358/.397 slashline. He’d be the solid table setter that the O’s need atop their order and could push Manny Machado and Hyun-Soo Kim down, making the lineup even stronger.
Reuniting with number 21 — or 22 now, I guess — would make sense for the Birds if they can figure out a way for Atlanta to cover a chunk of the contract and not demand a valuable real prospect in return.
That may prove to be easier said than done.