The Braves’ signing of Markakis: A pricey half-measure

He’s a good glove man. I’ll grant that. (Patrick Semansky/AP photo)

He's a good glove man. I'll grant that.  (Patrick Semansky/AP photo)

He’s a good glove man. I’ll grant that. (Patrick Semansky/AP photo)

OK, I’m confused. Most everything the Atlanta Braves had done this offseason — trading Jason Heyward for two young pitchers, declining to make a bid for Jon Lester, non-tendering Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy — suggested they were going the younger-and-cheaper rebuilding route even if they hadn’t yet admitted it.

Now this: They sign the 31-year-old Nick Markakis for $45 million over four years.

Not younger. Not cheaper. And I’m no longer sure what they’re doing.

There’s a chance that signing Markakis will eventually allow the Braves to trade Justin Upton and/or Evan Gattis for more younger and cheaper players, but this seems an odd way to go about that. Markakis isn’t a run-producer — though he did hit more home runs (14) than Heyward (11) last season and drove in nearly as many runs, and he won a Gold Glove for his work in right field, same as Heyward — but he does provide the Braves with a leadoff option. He’s doesn’t strike out much, which will set him apart on this team. He’s not an awful player.

Neither is he anything exceptional. Going by Baseball Reference’s WAR calculations, Markakis was worth 6.0 wins over the past four seasons; Heyward was worth 6.3 last season.

I understand that the Braves traded Heyward not because they didn’t like him but because they felt they couldn’t afford to make him stay beyond 2015. But paying $10 million a year for a light-hitting corner outfielder who’ll be 34 at contract’s end seems high to me, and not just to me. Here’s Keith Law of ESPN Insider on the Markakis signing.

Granted, he’s an upgrade over any in-house option for right field now that Jason Heyward is gone — please, no more Jose Constanza sightings — but for a team that seemed desperate to save a few bucks with the non-tenders of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, overspending on a mediocre right-field solution feels self-defeating. Go cheap or go expensive; don’t try to do both.

If the Braves do decide they need to clean house and start again, that’s fine. I’m just not fond of half-measures. At best, Markakis is a half-measure.

Reader Comments 2

86 comments
BaseballTopFan
BaseballTopFan

Nick Makakis has to have Neck surgery  !!!


Neck surgery is risky and delicate.


Some people are never ever the same after bulging disc surgery.


The Atlanta Braves have $45,000,000 (45 Million Dollars) invested in Makakis.



FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Stop. Stop, stop, please freakin stop playing this like Heyward was anything but a marginal impact player on this team. If Markakis' 6.0 WAR is "anything but exceptional," how impressive is Heyward's 6.3? It's not. The only thing we would have really missed from Heyward is his glove. Admittedly at a position where you don't necessarily need a gold glover but whatever. This signing replaces that. Heyward was not a good leadoff hitter. This signing fills that need. Was it more expensive than it should have been? Sure. But let's stop this nonsense about the huge hole that Heyward's absence leaves on this team. He will command a lot of money for reasons I can't fathom, and he will consistently disappoint as he did here for YEARS. The guy wasn't David Justice. He wasn't Andruw Jones. He wasn't even Ryan Klesko. We're lucky to be rid of him.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

@FineousMcDirtyBird Heyward's upside is eons beyond that of Markakis.  Markakis, being 31, is on the downslide.  Heyward may not turn out to be the next Willie Mays, but we knew that about Markakis long ago. 

geoknows
geoknows

DirtyBird, Markakis's 6.0 WAR was for the last four seasons combined.  That's an average of 1.5 per season.  Heyward's 6.3 WAR was for 2014 alone.  His combined WAR for the last four seasons is 18.1 - for an average of 4.5.

THEBITTERTRUTH
THEBITTERTRUTH

Hey Bradley - you are usually pretty smart when it comes to commenting - but you are off base on this one. The Braves may very well sign Upton and trade Gattis (and hopefully BJ) to pick up another good pitcher or center fielder. If they do this they will be contenders for a wild card berth - trust me. They got rid of Heyward and got Markakis and Miller for 4 years. Anyone in their right mind would have taken that trade in a minute.The smartest thing they did was cut Medlen and Beachy - why in the he!! would you take a 6-10 million dollar chance on 2 pitchers who may never pitch effectively again? I would take the money and spend it on someone who has a reasonable chance of contributing right away. I am a business man and I can see that the Braves are making some very smart business moves. They know what they are doing. Why don't all you haters let it play out and I think you will be happy.

ProudtobefrmthaG
ProudtobefrmthaG

I dont know how adding a non-difference maker at 11 million per helps your team but hey, im just a commenter.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Good deal move on... Waiting for Hart to drop the next shoe! 

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

" ... Sadly the only way to make up for the BJ and Uggla contracts is looking to trade J-Up or Gattis. "


Not arguing against your point, but clearly the Braves front office is holding the fan base accountable for their foul ups. Rather than mitigating the negative impact to the on-field product by increasing the budget to compensate, they are dumping talent like the 2008 Marlins.


It's Liberty Media's subsidiary.  And this is what they have to do to maintain their profit margin.  Maybe Braves fans don't care  that they're getting dissed/screwed.  I'm not a Braves fan anymore.


But dissed and screwed is what Liberty is doing to them through their minions in the Braves front office.







DrPhill
DrPhill

It will be very interesting to see what Heyward does in an organization with great tradition and good coaching. Typically, former Braves' players improve when they move to new teams. I'm waiting to see what happens with BJ Upton before I plan my spring vacation.

Fun and Gun
Fun and Gun

Wren's outfield last year nearly struck out 500 times combined. Markakis is a more consistent player than Heyward's unfortunate hyped potential.


The closest thing to an in-house minor league outfield talent is Terdoslavich.


Sadly the only way to make up for the BJ and Uggla contracts is looking to trade J-Up or Gattis. Perhaps releasing Medlen and Beachy are attempts of recouping some of the lost money and this is the team we'll have.


The more frustrating thing as a Braves fan is that our division rivals have more promising rosters than us.



TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Mark, I'm glad you don't consider a .290 career hitter ann "awful" player. Neither was the .260 career hitter Heyward an awful player. This one costs less and has a better overall clubhouse presence- does it make sense now?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

If J Hey doesn't learn to hit LHP's, he is going to be platooned rotation somewhere and they are going to be unhappy, because of how much they will be paying him. 


Markakis can hit lefties and righties.

Jsteg
Jsteg

Maybe the Braves are looking for a veteran presence and leadership that has been sorely lacking in this team.  There was no life to the 2014 team.  Hopefully the addition of some wily and crafty veterans who exhibit a desire to win will rub off on the youngsters and bring some life to this moribund clubhouse

lovesthegame
lovesthegame

Come on Mark.  You continually play good cop/bad cop.  I think the media style now a days is to create controversy with the readers/listeners.  It encourages us to check in and see what you have to say and then waste 10 minutes of our time blogging.  Thus far Hart appears to have a plan and he is taking steps to improve the club which in this case is veteran leadership and acquiring a "ballplayer" and not an athlete.  He is a player Chipper would love, just as he loved Prado but was never very high on J-Hey.  JH had so many holes in his swing and I wonder if part of the problem was him not listening to the hitting coaches.  He hit .164 against LH pitching (worse than the accursed BJ).  Hart is not finished so let's not be too quick to judge.  Who is to say Markakis will hit leadoff.  We will be trading for a CF, who many times are the leadoff hitters.  J-Hey also covered himself by saying he and the Braves only talked for 10 minutes, but I am sure his agent was in discussion with management and they could se that JH would not be worth more than $10 mil/year to them and he wanted much, much more.  Even with all of his stats Justin is not the answer for the Braves.  Too hot and cold, defensive liability, too may swings and misses.  Lastly, except for Rosenthal and Olney most of the writers don't do enough research on the players they assess.  I have heard more than one announcer say that BJ was an outstanding CF.

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

I'm glad others saw through this "article" too...this is simply Bradley rehashing the Keith Law story so he didn't have to write his own. Let DOB write the baseball articles Mark, stick to a sport you can write your own stories about..

JonathanSpringston
JonathanSpringston

Markakis has a higher batting average, higher on base percentage, and fewer strikeouts than Jason Heyward. I'll take it. 


It's not 1998 anymore. Billy Beane won the argument a long time ago. The Braves way of stacking the lineup with home run hitters didn't work. Let Freeman and Justin Upton provide the power, but surround them with guys who can get on base and steal bases. Freeman and Upton really reached this past season because they were under pressure to produce when no one else could.


Get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in. That's how the Giants and Cardinals keep winning one World Series after another. A home run makes for nice b-roll on the evening news, but swinging for the fences is no longer how you build a World Series contender. 


Bringing in Markakis is actually a sign the Braves have nothing in the farm system to replace Heyward, which is more troubling than anything. There's a lot of work to be done in Braves Country. I don't envy the fellas who have to clean up the mess.



Daniel Youngblood
Daniel Youngblood

This is article is a half measure. You got a right fielder and a lead off hitter who can make contact.  You only had a right fielder last year who couldn't make contact and couldn't lead off.  The only half here is that Markakis signed for half the money that Heyward would have signed for.

JohnCL
JohnCL

I like the signing. My reasoning is that I think they got a player who is similar in production to Jason Heyward. Before you laugh at me let me say I'd rather have Heyward. But here's what the move did: 1. Got good RF at $4-$8 million a year less than what Heyward may command, and 2. Brought us 2 stud young pitchers.


I'm not suggesting Nick Markakis is as good in the field as Heyward. I know he's not as young. But consider this, While Markakis's offensive #'s have declined slightly the last 2 years, Heyward's power #'s have plummeted. Heyward is better in the field, He's a gold glover, but Markakis is not far behind. He has 2 gold gloves of his own.


I don't know how anyone can be confused about the signing. The braves needed a RF, he was the best reasonable option on the market. The braves have said they are not having a fire sale, they intend to compete next year as well as build for the future. This does exactly that. They probably overpaid a bit to get him and definitely gave him 1 year too many, but thats where the market is.  He's a Top 10 player at his position and he's getting paid like it. If he were top 5 he'd command a bit more (see 34 yr old DH Nelson Cruz).


The braves needed veteran leadership and it doesn't hurt that he's from the area and we have a new stadium to fill. The guys a solid player. Very good, not great, but definitely better than avg.  I'm sure his agent said, "if batting .198 and hitting 10 homers  gets you $15 Million on this team, surely my guys worth $11Mil! lol


Let's consider NM #'s this year. Measured against other NL RF 

He would rank:

6th in BA - Just above Jason Hayward

9th in HR - Just above Yasiel Puig & Jason Werth... 3 Spots ahead of Jason Hayward

11th in RBI - Just behind Jason Heyward

1st in fewest Strik Outs (of those with at least 400 Plate Appearances) 2 Spots in front of Jason Heard

5th in OBP - Just behind Jason Hayward

7th in Doubles - Just ahead of Jason Hayward

7th in WAR - 3 spots behind Jason Heyward

1st in Assist - Just ahead of Jason Hayward


So he's 31 and will be nearly 35 when the deal ends. Right now he stays healthy, Hayward is 25 and can't stay healthy. BJ Upton and Dan Uggula were both younger than Markakis when they signed their fateful deals with our braves. I'll take the over under that this dude is better than either of them in yr 3 of his deal.

gfw
gfw

@JohnCL Great stats, thanks.  You make a good case.  My only puzzler: don't we want the lead-off man to be faster than Markakis?  I know Heyward struck out too much to lead-off, but he did have great speed OBP.

kenstallings
kenstallings

The Braves will likely trade Juston Upton and even rebuilding they had to calculate filling in holes in the lineup that their farm system cannot fill.  There are not MLB ready players to play in the outfield at this time.  He's exactly the kind of bat the Braves really need -- consistent and puts the ball into play.  Vice continue to play Heyward where he was not ideally suited, simply because he was the best fit, the Braves now have a piece that works at leadoff.  

jlrhoya
jlrhoya

One of the greatest problems the Braves had last year was that it was too young with no veteran leadership.  They stupidly let Hudson go who was a strong veteran on the staff.  They expected Uggla and BJ to be veteran leaders but both of them became mental cases.


Markakis will be the important leader to keep the youngsters on the team together.  And, if you think his contract is high, remember his pay is not just for his stats but also for his leadership.

BSNBC
BSNBC

Time to clean house!

RangeRover
RangeRover

Mark,

They needed a Right Fielder.  Why is this complicated?

I think they're better off! 

Baghead
Baghead

@RangeRover Bradley never has been much of analyst.  In fact, most of his thoughts in this article were stolen from a Keith Law ESPN article calling this a head scratcher.  Great move.  Lead off hitter for cheap.  An obp almost 100 points higher than Heyward.  A change of scenery will also elevate his numbers.

Delbert_D
Delbert_D

The Braves are trying to build interest among Greek-Americans, unlike Arthur Blank.

JChikara
JChikara

As someone who lives in the DC area and got to watch Markakis play with the Orioles on a regular basis, I applaud this move by Atlanta. He will come in and provide solid defense and make contact on a regular basis, which was a foreign concept with many of the Braves hitters last year. He's not a stolen base threat, but I think he would fit the number two role perfectly and set up for Freeman.


I think Atlanta has to move Gattis instead of Upton. Ride Bethancourt as your catcher of the future and Justin provides that RBI punch that this lineup still needs. Gattis is cheaper but has already shown a propensity for being hurt often and being out in LF will not make matters any easier. Get a potential prospect at CF for him in a trade. 

Jabmc
Jabmc

Since the Braves are moving to Cobb Co., and the roster moves they are making, it seems they are trying to bring back the ATLANTA CRACKERS LOL!

Princess_Leia
Princess_Leia

@Jabmc I have many fond memories of going with my dad to see the Crackers play in the 1950s at Ponce de Leon Park. We parked at Sears and walked across the street to the ballpark. The old Southern Association league had teams from Birmingham (Barons), Memphis (Chicks), and several other Southern cities. Those were the days.

AABraves
AABraves

Yeah I kinda see it as a Rotisserie League move swapping JH for Markakis and Miller with the other guy thrown in..I dont see how you cant say they technically are a better club on paper now if both perform as well as in the past. No, the Cards, Nats, Giants are not trembling...I think they are trying to keep a decent team on the field and still rebuild. If they get a haul for Gattis I will be pretty satisfied. 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

If they get $44 million worth of baseball out of Markakis this is a good signing, if not then it's not. Everything else is irrelevant. The Braves are now back up to two competent MLB outfielders, slightly more if you include Gattis.

Waredawg
Waredawg

Two days in a row - bad misguided article! The Braves aren't that far from being a wildcard contender with their starting pitching, core guys - Freeman, Simmons, Gattis, Bethancourt, and maybe Johnson - and  Kimbrel

and the others bullpen holdovers ( should have one of the top three or four bullpens in NL). The rebuild was never going to be drastic, so this move makes a lot of sense. It's a half- measure if they do nothing else this off season or next, but current makeup of team suggests more moves are in the works. Makes no sense to keep Justin and Gattis, unless you really think Bethancourt won't pan out and the plan is to play Justin in left and Gattis as catcher.

I still think they will move Justin for a CF (even if a shortermer), put Gattis in left to start the season and give CB every chance to be the everyday guy. Could really surprise by trading CB for centerfielder, putting Gattis behind the plate, Justin in LF, and sitting BJ. With Markakis at lead-off and BJ's K's gone ( not to mention Uggla and Heyward), we will be much improved offensively. Gattis goes nowhere unless the offer is overwhelming. Too much power and control years. He'll still be worth a bundle at the end of '15.

A half-measure may suggest you are only half finished. Based on JH's performance to date, MK is about 85-90% of the player JH is. Essentially, we replaced JH with MIller/MK for substantially less money than JH will likely get next year ( and there's no way the Braves resign him - somebody will give him 20 M +).


Give Hart a chance to finish - we may not be half bad next year ( and I was never a Braves kool-aid drinker I thought Fredi should also go).

And quit giving so much credence to those silly metric stats.( Mr. Metric Billy Beane has one less WS win than often unfairly reviled Bobby Cox).  Metrics don't take into account intangibles, leadership, team chemistry or even something as basic as the effect a "true lead-off hitter" may have on the rest of the lineup.


This signing is not a bad move. GO BRAVES!

RealReality
RealReality

@Waredawg I like the optimism and don't disagree. But I don't have much faith in Fredi Gonzalez.

reckingball
reckingball

I watched the Braves play a lot of games last season,....... so many in fact,...... that I finally got sick of watching them fail, so many times, ......that I could not stand it anymore.

I believe that anyone that watched the games that I saw, will tell you,..........THAT ONE HIT per game, in at least  15 different games would have  turned losing games,..... into Wins.

reckingball
reckingball

It looks like $10million a year,  is the going rate for a player of  Markakis's caliber.

They still need to put some kind of reasonably entertaining product on the field, no matter what they are doing.

But I suppose it is Mark Bradley and all of the other writers on all of the other sites, job, to stir the pile.

reckingball
reckingball

And Keith Law is a genius, that is never wrong? Is that what you're saying?

Bulltoad
Bulltoad

Law is a moron.  It is always about upside.  His #1 free agent 2 years ago in all of baseball was BJ Upton.  Enough said.  

James6727
James6727

this time you're wrong...what the Braves are doing is via 1991. They are trying to put good, solid, reasonably priced veterans around young up and coming kids. Bream, Pendleton (keep in mind he had an off year in 1990 and St. Louis let him walk ), and Belliard weren't exciting signings either but they solidified a young team. Whether it works twice remains to be seen. You don't have to have a superstar at every position.


Get The Picture
Get The Picture

Should have kept Heyward, contract year usually produces good results then if you can't afford him let him go, same with Justin Upton let him play out his contract year and then say adios unless you can get something for him of value this year.

hardworkinman
hardworkinman

@Get The Picture Why? He had already told the Braves he was going to test free agency. It's not hard to figure out what the market for Heyward would be. The $200 million number was already being thrown around after a mediocre offensive season. If he had a great offensive season in 2015 the numbers would be even higher. With Markakis you get virtually the same offensive production and a gold glove at a price you can live with for four years instead of getting one year from Heyward and then having him walk. The Braves were simply not going to pay Heyward elite money when he has never been an elite player.

50Concept
50Concept

with this huge signing, ATL is back!  ATL will win the division this year with this new talent---mark it down!

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

By mid-season can we be  looking at Paraza, Markakis & Freeman hitting 1-2-3 ?

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Mark Bradley,

What do you think of this trade proposal:

Justin Upton, BJ Upton & Fredi Gonzalez to Baltimore for Adam Jones and Buck Showalter ?

I can dream, can't I ?

Trackbacks

  1. […] I can’t say I disagree. The Mets are scheduled to get Matt Harvey, their best pitcher, back from Tommy John surgery. The Marlins are scheduled to get Jose Fernandez, their best pitcher, back from TJ as well, and the Fish have actually spent money this offseason. The Braves have traded Jason Heyward and handed $45 million to Nick Markakis. […]

  2. […] doesn’t mean signing Nick Markakis makes any sense. (It doesn’t.) And it doesn’t mean the 2015 Atlanta Braves will be any good. (They […]