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.