The Braves currently have a really good problem on their hands. They have many capable outfielders who need playing time, and not enough innings to go around. At the beginning of the season, many assumed this would be Nick Markakis‘ swan song, and he would either be traded by July 31st or would sign with a contender this offseason.
That’s no longer the case.
Nicky Singles has re-invented himself this season, posting a career best in batting average (.316) while pacing the senior circuit in doubles and hits. His Slugging % and OPS are on pace to improve to career highs, along with his home run totals. All at age 34 while being selected to his first all-star game. Markakis is a player who has aged like wine and doing in front of his hometown fans.
Cristian Pache was recently promoted to AA and has already responded with multi-hit games in his first two games. He’s going to be a big piece of Atlanta’s future. Ender Inciarte is under team control until 2022 and plays defense that can only be matched by few in the majors. Ronald Acuna is Ronald Acuna. Pache seems to be on the fast track to the majors, but how much stock is Alex Anthopoulos willing to invest into a soon to be 35 year-old ? The neck injury he suffered is not going to improve with age. Will the Braves attempt to keep Markakis, or trade Inciarte even though his value is the lowest it’s ever been.
Personally, here’s how I would handle the situation. Cristian Pache is 19 years old and just got his first taste of AA action. If he continues his torrid streak (with his newfound power surge) through the minors, the EARLIEST he would be up is mid-2019. You have to think the front office would take the same contract emphasized approach they took with Acuna. Nick Markakis is currently on an excellent deal, 4 years $44 million (worth every dime). I think he’s deserved a pay raise for sure, and Anthopoulos should offer him a 2 year, $34 million deal. This gives Nick a $6 million dollar pay raise on a shorter term deal with a contender. The extra cabbage would convince him to stay, and by the time Pache is ready for the bigs, the team could re-evaluate trading Inciarte or letting Markakis walk at the end of 2020 at the age of 37.
I want Nick Markakis around. He’s been clutch all year, and his play style will keep him playing at a high level even with his age. He seems to be loved by all of his teammates, and he provides a veteran presence that is few and far between on this club. He’s protected Freddie all season, and you have to think that keeping him around would give Freddie incentive to stay past his next contract. We’ll see how Anthopoulos plays his first big re-signing.