16 November 2013

If the O's Want Beltran, Markakis May Be on the Way Out

Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal dropped an interesting nugget involving the Orioles and Carlos Beltran:
Rosenthal also mentioned the other day that the O's were possibly looking to trade Wieters or other players on the team with rapidly rising salaries (such as Jim Johnson). Chris Davis is another guy who fits into that category. Plus, J.J. Hardy's name has also come up in trade rumors.

But if the Orioles are truly interested in Beltran or someone of his ilk, then one guy isn't being talked about enough as a trade candidate: Nick Markakis. And, as mentioned by Mike Francesa (via Andrew Vazzano of SportsNet New York) just a few days ago, Markakis may be on the market:
Apparently the Mets approached the Orioles about Markakis, so who knows if the O's are actively shopping Markakis to other teams. But they may be, for two reasons: 1) Markakis has $17 million left on his contract ($15 million in 2014 plus a $2 million buyout of his $17.5 million club option for 2015), so they would likely need that type of money if they were going to sign someone like Beltran to a multiyear deal; and 2) Beltran has not played left field since 2000 (and he only did so for two games). Markakis hasn't played left field since his rookie season in 2006, and I have a hard time believing the Orioles would sign Beltran and then move Markakis out of right field. Beltran and Markakis are also both limited in the outfield range-wise. Markakis may be slightly better defensively now than Beltran, but that probably has more to do with Markakis being 30 (he turns 31 tomorrow) and Beltran being 36. But Beltran is clearly the superior hitter, and maybe playing for an American League team and hitting occasionally in the DH spot would help.
Nick Markakis
(photo via Keith Allison)

A couple other notes on Beltran, Markakis, and the right field situation:

1. If the Orioles somehow do intend to trade Markakis, a big negotiating point will be how much money they send along with him. $17 million is a lot to spend on someone who put up the numbers Markakis did last season, and there's no chance another team would simply assume Markakis's entire salary, let alone give back anything of value. If the Orioles want to dump Markakis somewhere and also sign Beltran (who made $13 million each in 2012 and 2013), they will probably need to shed some cash another way as well.

2. Signing Beltran means the Orioles would forfeit their first-round pick (17th overall) in the upcoming MLB Draft. I support that decision more than, say, signing Kendrys Morales, but that would still a bitter pill to swallow.

3. Beltran is better than Markakis -- big surprise, I know. Take a look at their career wOBA comparison:

Source: FanGraphs -- Carlos Beltran, Nick Markakis

Beltran had an awful 2005 season (.323 wOBA in his first year with the Mets) before rebounding in a huge way the very next season (.408 wOBA). He's been pretty steady since then, though in 2010 he was slow to start producing again after having knee surgery in the offseason.

Markakis's poor 2013 has been discussed enough on this site. It's impossible to know whether or not he'll bounce back after the worst season of his career, or if this is the type of production (OK on-base percentage, low power) he's going to offer from now on. By all accounts, Markakis was healthy, which is both good (hey, he's healthy!) and worrisome (he played 160 games and was that awful).


If it were just a choice between Beltran and Markakis, Beltran is the pick. But considering the draft pick the O's would forfeit and the cash the O's would need to sign Beltran and send along with Markakis in a potential trade, it's a difficult decision. I would be shocked if Markakis doesn't hit at least somewhat better in 2014, but then again, I'd never thought he'd put together a season like 2013 -- at least not until he was much older.

As Luke Jackson and others have pointed out, if shedding money is that big of a concern for the Orioles, maybe they should just non-tender Jim Johnson. Spending over $10 million for a decent closer is not the best use of resources.


Triple R said...

This seems like an all-around bad idea. Beltran wasn't that great last season by both Baseball-Reference (2.4) and Fangraphs (2.0) WAR, and he's not getting any younger. At the same time, Markakis' poor hitting was probably (hopefully) a fluke, à la 2012 Hardy; a rebound to some degree should be expected.
Even if you're optimistic about Beltran and pessimistic about Markakis, it's probably not more than a two-win upgrade from the latter to the former, and for me, the 17th overall pick (and another multiyear contract) just isn't worth that.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I found myself agreeing with that viewpoint as I was nearly done with the piece. Bringing in Beltran would make the team better, but it would be costly. Besides, I don't think it will happen anyway. As I wrote in my RF offseason post, it probably makes sense to just roll with Markakis for one more year, maybe bring in a right-handed outfield bat, and give Markakis more games off.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that while Markakis should be heading out, bringing in a 36-year old cannot be the solution. It is not clear that the team is going to pull together at a playoff contending level. This is a big cross-roads year for the Orioles, and the free agent pieces are not looking like a good fit for the Orioles.

We should re-sign our quality players and look for comeback players (McLouth) or players that you hope can finally prove they can will have value the major leagues (Davis).

Until there is a competitive TV contract, free agents that cost first round draft picks are really out of the question in a big way.

Anonymous said...

As an O's fan who lives in St. Louis, some of Beltran's numbers might not have been as "gaudy" as Chris Davis' 53 HRs, but Beltran didn't strike out 199 times. If the O's could sign him, you'd have a class act and a clubhouse leader. The O's need to find a batting coach who can help Davis and Jones cut down on the SOs. Markakis' BA might have been off, but his SOA (strikeout avg) was about .119--that's not shabby!