17 November 2014

Is Nick Markakis an Everyday Player?

In his weekly ESPN.com chat last Thursday, Keith Law replied to a question on free agent Nick Markakis. He answers questions honestly and bluntly, as is his style, but I was still a bit surprised by his response:
4/$40M too much for Markakis? Could the O's do better by flipping Gonzalez or Norris + a prospect?

Klaw (1:23 PM)
Way too much. Not even clear he's a regular at this point. And I was generally a believer in his talent when he was younger.
At least for the next couple years, I'm not sure it's fair to say that Markakis (who turns 31 years old today) is not a regular player. The hope is that his career worst 2013 season was an aberration. And indeed, he did bounce back. Except for that awful 2013, Markakis has been worth at least 1.6 fWAR in every season.

The topic of Markakis is popular among O's fans. In May, Nate wrote about Markakis's drop in power when facing left-handed pitching. In June, Jon wrote about Markakis's future value and what he could be seeking if/when he became a free agent. And a couple weeks ago, Nate and Matt Perez, respectively, offered their thoughts on why the O's should and shouldn't bring Markakis back.

What to do with Markakis is a divisive issue. Most, if not all, fans appreciate what Markakis has done throughout his career in Baltimore and recognize that he gave what he had when the team was terrible -- which it has been for most of his career. But a sizable group of fans also realize that loyalty is fine, but what they want to keep seeing most of all is a winning team. And that's the dividing point -- does it make sense to roll the dice and possibly give Markakis more than he's worth? Keeping a popular player around is fine, but it's not quite as pleasant if his production steadily slips.

There have been conflicting reports on Markakis's re-signing so far. Him returning to Baltimore seems like a foregone conclusion, but a deal has not been completed yet. Different contract figures have also been reported, though there is agreement that the length will probably be four years. But the above question mentions a four-year, $40 million deal. One report discusses a four-year, $44 million contract. And MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Markakis would get $48 million. Jon noted in his Markakis piece that a three-year, $30 million deal would be more than fair, but a shallow market appears to be driving up his value. That's not uncommon for a popular free agent target.

Keith Law may very well be wrong about Markakis's current abilities. He's not working with a crystal ball; he just offers his opinion. (And no, this isn't because of some anti-team bias.) And he's not wrong about Markakis's apparent younger talent. Many fans were dreaming of future phenomenal seasons after Markakis's fantastic 2008 (138 wRC+, along with excellent defense). While he's been good since then -- sometimes better, sometimes worse -- he has not been great. The great element of Markakis's game has been gone for a while, with most of that tied to his inability to consistently hit for power. He hasn't hit more than 15 home runs in a season since 2009.

If the Orioles do sign Markakis for four years and between $40 and $48 million, they would likely be projecting him to be worth somewhere between 1.5 and 2 wins for the next few years. Steamer projects him to be worth 1.3 wins in 2015. That's probably close enough, though that doesn't really inspire confidence going forward, especially considering the large amount of games he's played and the lack of rest over the years. Markakis is a good player -- and still an everyday player. But that may not be the case two or three years from now.

Photo via Keith Allison


Anonymous said...

I realize it is not popular and not the way the Orioles handle things, but paying Yaz Tomas the same as Markakis but for three more years makes more sense to me. Yes, Buck and Duke have won by making the worst players better than other teams worst players, but Markakis is at best average and at worst is nothing. Tomas has the same floor but could be great.

Or maybe this is a similar argument to Jimenez.

Statistics Don't Lie said...

There is a lot of downside risk in signing Nick to a 4/$40 contract. The upside is 2008 performance, which I think most will agree, is pretty unlikely.

I hope that the real story is that Duquette is offering 3/$25 or less, but with significant bonuses for making the AS team or getting top-10 in MVP voting.

If he actually performs like a $12 m. player, I have no problem paying for that. My biggest worry is 2016 and beyond. It seems that his slide has begun (rather early, I might add) and its simply a matter of how fast it happens. I think that Nick risks becoming a role player in 2017.

Anonymous said...

I think the O's should offer at most 3 years and 30 million for Nick. If he says no, then the O's should look at alternatives. He has no speed for a leadoff hitter, and he has very little power for the middle of the lineup. He really fits near the end of the lineup around 7th. His value has been decreasing fast over the last several years and his production (batting, on base pct, power) the second half of 2014 was not good.

Anonymous said...

Saying Markakis is not an everyday player is just plain ridiculous. Saying a Gold Glove winner is on the downside is also crazy. He is more of a leader of this team than Jones. He is well worth 12m/year. Sign the man.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Obviously none of us know how Markakis will perform in the future, but how do you figure that he's worth more than $12 million per year? And what does winning a Gold Glove have to do with not being on the downside of his career? Do you think Derek Jeter was still worthy of a Gold Glove in 2010? Was he not on the downside of his career?

Defensive awards are great, but they are not a strong indicator of quality defensive performance. Markakis is fine defensively, but he's not one of the best outfielders in baseball.

Anonymous said...

He is one of the best defensive RF's in the game, you can keep your sabermetrics. You guys act like he is 31 going on 41. He is the only guy on the team that will take a pitch and has "taken one for the team" by batting leadoff. How can you knock in runs with the 7/8/9 hitters batting in the LOW 200's. Power can come from any position and I believe the O's have enough "power" hitters so why are we concerning with his power numbers? I believe that if he is not resigned the team will regress.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I like Markakis. He very well may have several decent seasons ahead of him. But Markakis didn't take one for the team by moving to the leadoff spot. His offensive skills (good OBP, not good SLG) necessitated a move in the batting order. It made sense to bat him there, and it still does. He is not a middle-of-the-order hitter.

I'm interested in his on-field skills. It seems like a lot of your points have to do with his leadership or him being a good teammate. Those things matter, but it's impossible to quantify them.

Also, thank you for letting me keep my sabermetrics.

Brad said...

Just wanted to add that for this Thanksgiving season I am thankful you're letting me keep my sabermetrics.

Brad said...

"Saying Markakis is not an everyday player is just plain ridiculous."


"Saying a Gold Glove winner is on the downside is also crazy."


"He is more of a leader of this team than Jones."


"He is well worth 12m/year. Sign the man."

Why? Because you say so with bold pronouncements buttressed by nothing but the confidence of an imbecile.

Mark said...

Agree with anonymous completely.

How many right fielders today in the American League you would willing choose over Nick ? How many of those are available for acquisition for less money than what the Orioles can sign Nick for ?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

We've talked about other potential possibilities for right field the past few weeks. Please check them out.

And we are all not against a Markakis re-signing. But there's no reason for the O's to paint themselves into a corner and get in a bidding war for a good but replaceable player.