Despite Nick Markakis earning his first All-Star nod in 2018, the phone was not exactly ringing off the hook with interest. Markakis stayed out on the open market for a while, and the Braves were evaluating all their options to strengthen their outfield. Ultimately, in January, Markakis rejoined the Braves on a one year deal worth $4 million, with a $2 million buyout and a $6 million club option for 2020.
Being age 35 and coming off a slow end to the season certainly did not help Markakis’ stock in free agency, but even at the time, this deal was viewed as a tremendous value compared to the free agent dollars other teams in the league (and the NL East) were giving out. Eleven games into the 2019 season, it is looking like the bargain of the offseason. Markakis is 14-for-41 and picking up right where he left off last season. He is a well-documented clubhouse leader, and hitting a bit lower down in the order should be better suited for his abilities. He now has even more talent ahead of him to dominate in RISP situations.
Though it remains early, Markakis could make a case for the Braves to use their club option in 2020 due to the outstanding value. Many fans did not believe he was worth four years, $44 million when the Braves signed him, but by the end of the contract, he was worth every penny. I would not expect anything less this year. Markakis is the grease that makes the wheels spin in this lineup. He is dependable in clutch situations and has been aging like fine wine.
Many fans have called out Liberty Media and Alex Anthopoulos for the lack of dollars spent, but deals like this are fantastic baseball moves. Markakis is being paid like a journeyman relief pitcher and is a core member of the Braves’ lineup. It is a pleasure getting to watch the Atlanta native sport the tomahawk on his chest for at least another season, and the price tag is the icing on the cake. If (or when) the Braves take on some dollars to add a piece or two closer to the deadline, remember that bringing back Markakis at such a bargain is what gave the Braves the flexibility to do so.