Ken Rosenthal initially broke the news that Nick Markakis would be returning to Atlanta on a one-year deal worth $4 million in 2019, ending nearly two months of silence from the Braves this offseason since signing Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson on the same day. Markakis’s contract includes a $6 million option for 2020 with a $2 million buyout.
In total it’s a one-year deal with six million in guarantees, but the buyout clause is essential because it gives the Braves an extra two million to spend this offseason, which is what this deal is all about.
By signing Markakis to a cost-effective $4 million for 2019, the Braves projected payroll right now sits at about $110 million effectively allowing them to make another significant addition before the start of the season. That’s important because the Braves still have some areas where they must improve to contend for a World Series.
The length of the deal is also noticeable. It wasn’t long ago that a player in his mid-30s coming off a career year would be offered a multi-year contract near $10 million AAV. With Markakis signing a one-year deal for less than half of that, it shows you the state of today’s market for aging players. However, it works out perfectly for the Braves who have a couple of outstanding outfield prospects waiting in the wings.
Observing the outfield market; it was hard to imagine where the Braves could go to find an upgrade over Markakis. Bryce Harper was never an option. Some realistic alternatives like Michael Brantley and Andrew McCutchen did not stay on the open market for long. A.J. Pollock is a screaming red flag. Even the trade market was not ideal, and it required the Braves to part ways with some of their talented prospects.
Last year, Markakis slashed .297/.366/.440 with an .802 OPS. He was an ironman for the Braves, playing in all 162 games, recording 185 hits including 43 doubles and even won a Gold-Glove. Sure, Markakis’s production dropped off in the second half of the season, but he still put together an unbelievable body of work over a full season. Had his splits been reversed, and he had excelled in the second half of the season instead of the first half, this deal would be viewed as an utter steal (which it still is).
Another detail that should put Braves fans at ease is the fact that Markakis no longer has to occupy the cleanup spot. The Braves have stated that they would like to have Acuña, Donaldson, and Freeman hit first, second and third in the order, but that doesn’t seem likely unless they make another addition to their lineup. Markakis has never been a prototypical cleanup hitter and will be better off further down in the order, or perhaps in the two-hole. As of now, Donaldson and Acuña seem like the most likely candidates to occupy the fourth spot in the order.
In addition to all of this, according to reports, Markakis wanted to come back to Atlanta and took less money and years on his contract so he could return.
Braves reached deal with Markakis on Sunday night. Anthopoulos confirmed he had offers with more years/dollars elsewhere but wanted to return to Atlanta.
— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurnsAJC) January 22, 2019
This isn’t the blockbuster signing fans have been waiting for, but this was a fantastic value move for the club. They continue to remain active on all fronts and still plan on making an addition or two to improve before the start of the season.