13 June 2014

Markakis: Extend, Offer Qualifying Offer, or Let Him Fly Away

Nick Markakis is what almost everyone would want as a player.  He has been in the organization since he was drafted as a two way player.  He fought hard through the AFL and Spring Training to make the big league club.  He showed resilience through several trials and tribulations in the Majors.  Markakis was at one point considered perhaps the best right fielder in baseball with an amazing mix of defensive prowess and offensive robustness.  It has not been a walk in the daisies for all of his career with the Orioles, but there have been a lot of great memories.  Of course, none of that matters when we consider whether to try to ink him long term, play the one year game, or simply move on.

One question we have to ask ourselves is what is Markakis, exactly?

2006 22 542 25 16 .291 .351 .448 106 2.5 1.9 5
2007 23 710 43 23 .300 .362 .485 121 4.2 3.8 4
2008 24 697 48 20 .306 .406 .491 136 7.2 5.1 22
2009 25 711 45 18 .293 .347 .453 108 2.9 3.2 -3
2010 26 709 45 12 .297 .370 .436 120 2.3 3.4 -11
2011 27 716 31 15 .284 .351 .406 106 2.5 2.2 2
2012 28 471 28 13 .298 .363 .471 126 1.7 2.5 -7
2013 29 700 24 10 .271 .329 .356 88 -0.3 0.3 -7
2014 30 296 11 6 .302 .361 .418 116 1.1 1.0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2014.

Markakis' presence as an elite outfielder was built up both by scouting and the metrics that loved him during his first three seasons.  Afterward, thoughts on his defensive ability have become less unanimous with concerns about range and his arm popping up.  There certainly are questions we have brought up here about how well these metrics can measure defense, which was a topic BIS considered and left with a working answer of small sample size with a dose of coincidence.  Additionally, we noticed good outfield arms may decrease in value over time, but were unable to decisively conclude why.  Regardless, moving forward with his age, we should expect him to no longer be a gold glove quality player be it an average fielder or a below average one.

Offensively, last year is beginning to perhaps look like a lost season due to his thumb recovering.  With a poor ISO, it may be the new Nick Markakis will be more allong the lines of 2010 and 2011 instead of the more potent bat earlier in his career as well as the one that made a brief appearance in 2012.  That level of offense is not particularly exceptional, but it is solid average if not slightly above average.  It would not be surprising to see him end the season with an oWAR of 2.5, which would be his 5th or 6th best season.

A lot of how you value Markakis comes down to those perspectives.  Does he have a strongish bat or it is an anemic one?  Is he a good defensive outfielder or is he living on past success?  Below is how WAR shakes out based on your view of reality.  The numbers in the first set are projected WAR with capital B meaning a strong bat and lowercase b as the scenario for a weak bat.  D means the same thing, but for defense.  The second set of data suggests value associated with those levels of production for one year, three year, and five year deals.

BD Bd bD bd
2015 3.7 2.7 1.7 0.7
2016 3.5 2.5 1.5 0.5
2017 3.1 2.1 1.1 0.3
2018 3.0 2.0 1.0 0.2
2019 2.6 1.6 0.6 -0.2

2015 22.2 16.2 10.2 4.2
3 yr 64.8 45.8 26.9 9.3
5 yr 104.6 71.4 38.2 9.3

If you believe in the bat, then discussions should occur with an eye to extending Markakis.  Strong consideration should be given to signing him to a 3 to 4 year deal with a fifth season not being all that bad of an investment even if his defense is poor.  If you consider his defense to be good, then the play is an offer of arbitration* with the understanding that your offer of 15 MM in arbitration might well be accepted.  That would be an overpay in that case, but it might be a reasonable bet to take.  If both his bat and his glove are substandard, then there should be no consideration of extending him or playing the arbitration game.

* - By context, you may realize that I am using arbitration synonymously with qualifying offer.  That technically is incorrect as no arbitration is actually happening, but you get the point.  I hope.  Also, for some reason people ask questions about this article on other sites as opposed to actually, like, you know, asking them here.  Regarding his option next year, it has been reported to be a mutual option as opposed to a team option, but that the team must buy out Markakis in order to exercise their ability to decline the offer.  Mutual options are rarely, if ever, engaged by both parties.

Personally, I think he is an average right fielder defensively.  He is no longer great.  His range has collapsed a bit and that puts him in poor position to throw a runner out.  When he has the right position, he can still accurately fire the ball, but that situation has become less common.  Offensively, I think he is not the player he was last year.  Markakis is better than that, but I question whether he is actually an above average bat.  With an slightly below average bat and average defense, I put his value as the following:
1 year - 11 MM
3 years - 30 MM
5 years - 45 MM
With that in mind, I would offer him arbitration and make that 4 MM bet.  I severely doubt he would accept the terms on the other packages and, perhaps, would be insulted by them.  I would likely ask what terms he is seeking and disengage if the difference is more than 20% off.  I would expect him to want at least 15 MM a season and probably for four or five seasons.  If you think his bat will continue on from his pace this season, then he is worth that contract.  I do not agree with that.


Anonymous said...

Markakis has value as a #1 or #2 hitter, and if he becomes your #6 or #7 hitter you have a very strong club. He hits for average and has a high OBP (except for one year), and even has some pop though not enough for a #3, #4 or #5 hitting position.

Our problem is that $10M a year is 10% of the budget. Extending him is likely too expensive.

Offering him arbitration to get a first round pick ($14M) is going to end up with him accepting the offer after last year's debacle for players. Offering him arbitration at a gamble-low level could work, though he would most likely walk for a multi-year deal somewhere.

This is somewhat sad, given that there should be a way for a player that has not lived up to his promise and a mid-market club to make things work out.

Jon Shepherd said...

14 MM is last year's figure. This year will be about 15 or 16 MM.

Matt Perez said...

Baseball Cube has player salaries. When I calculate the average salary for the top 125 players in 2014, I get $14.7M. When I do it for the top 125 players in 2013, I get 13.9M. The qualifying offer for 2014 FA was $14.1M so we're talking about $15M for a QO.

I'm more bullish on him than you are. I'm thinking 3 and 35 to 40 or 4 and 50 is fair. His biggest strength is plate discipline which I don't expect to drop off in the next three to four years.

Kakes would be 8-10% of the budget but our pitching will be cheap for the next few years so we can afford him.

Anonymous said...

Only 5 out of 15 AL teams have gotten positive WAR from RF. The O's are one of those teams. Markakis could be productive one-team player with basically Ubaldo money.

If he averages 150 hits on a 4 year deal: he gets 2k hits as an Oriole by the 3rd year. The point about having cost controlled pitching should make it easier decision to give him 15/yr.

Jon Shepherd said...

The issue goes beyond Markakis and cost controlled pitching. There are other positions on the club and if he is a pure singles 150 hit batter...that is going to be pretty worthless. Also, WAR as it is now is not WAR as it will be. Be careful how you use that statistic.

Joe Reisel said...

Another point to consider is that nobody currently in the organization projects as a viable short-term replacement for Markakis.

Jon Shepherd said...

Right, that means a solution from outside of the organization or a potential overpay later in order to resolve no easy solution for the 2015 season.

CBreezyThreezy said...

Another thing that should be considered is something that is hard to place monetary value on, his value in the clubhouse. The best evidence of that value that comes to mind immediately is what happened in 2012. CC broke 'Kakes hand and he missed the end of the push and the post-season but he was ALWAYS in the dugout. You could tell how bad he wanted to be there and how bad everyone wanted to go on with the chance that he could make it back.

We don't owe 'Kakes anything for him being here his whole career and he doesn't owe us a hometown discount.

With that in mind, taking into account a realistic (Bd) view of him as a player, I think you have to try to get a 3-4 year deal done. That deal won't get done unless both sides compromise.

I don't envy the front office right now, everyone was talking about what to do with Wieters/Crush and now Wieters is hurt and I think 'Kakes has forced his way into that discussion.

Bobby S said...

Isn't there an option for 15 that is $17.5M or a $2.5m buyout? In that case there is no need for the QO. Just exercise the option since it's the same money in total and punt until next year.

Jon Shepherd said...

I thought I wrote that as clarification in tje article. Maybe not. It is a mutual option. Those are never agreed upon.

Matt Perez said...

If Markakis did void his option then he would sacrifice his $2.5 million buyout and it would make even more sense for the Os to offer him a QO.

But the reason why the Os would offer Kakes a QO is if they didn't think he'd accept. It's hard to justify paying him $17.5 million for next year.

Jon Shepherd said...

I am not sure how they do a reveal on a mutual option.