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?
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.
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 MMWith 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.
3 years - 30 MM
5 years - 45 MM