15 December 2015

Solving RF In Baltimore: Nick Markakis (Mostly)

A year ago, you might recall from the Twitters that I was slightly displeased with how the Orioles said goodbye to Nick Markakis.  With his horrific 2013 and a respectably meager 2014, the 31-year-old right fielder was not a player I considered worthwhile to extend a long-term contract.  His eroding power, loss of range in the field, and progression toward a true platoon player was a concern.  My irritation though was that I thought he was worth a Qualifying Offer.  That might look more risky now than it did then, but I thought the club let a draft pick slip through its fingers.

Now, with 2015 behind us, I could see how Markakis could be a useful addition to the 2016 club.  Yes, his power collapsed to an ugly .080 ISO, the worst of his career.  Yes, his BABIP was slightly and curiously high.  Yes, his walk rate was slightly and curiously high.  Yes, he probably needs to be convinced that he should be sitting against many starting southpaws.  Why yes, he has noticeable limitations.  I would argue though that what we see mostly in Baltimore is what Markakis is no longer as opposed to what he is.

That is, Markakis is a strong, contact oriented left-handed platoon bat who over the past two seasons has shown he is quite capable of playing right field on par or slightly below.  He appears to be a 1.5 WAR player if largely limited to right-handed starters and with his ability to put balls in play could be quite useful as a late inning replacement if a right hander follows a starting left hander.  If we consult our contract model BORAS, it suggests that a free agent Nick Markakis would be worth a two-year contract at 17 MM whereas he currently has three years and 31.5 MM remaining, which could be considered somewhat reasonable (for those interested, it thinks a 2/22 deal would have been appropriate last year).   Finally, as mentioned in a Baltimore Sun piece, the front office apparently thinks Markakis brought many intangibles that were missing during the 2015 season.

What does the comp model think?
Nick is a peculiar player who does not enjoy many high level comps when going though the numbers of corner outfielders during their age 29 through 31 seasons.  The best fits I could find were these six: Barney McCoskey, Peanuts Lowrey, Mickey Hatcher, Manny Mota, Phil Cavarretta, and Orlando Palmeiro.  It is an odd collection of players.  None of them really enjoyed the level of opportunity that Markakis did and none showed the level of power that Markakis once did.

Here is the 50th percentile projection based on this grouping:

2016 409 .278 .350 .369
2017 288 .282 .346 .375
2018 304 .286 .344 .376

There are a couple interesting items.  The grouping of players largely are individuals who were never full-time players, so that might impact the projections a bit.  The rate stats are also peculiar.  They suggest that Markakis might lean more on contact and see his walk rate deteriorate.  His power is projection to stay around an ISO of .090.

With a 3/31.5 remainder left on his contract, I wanted to see how the projection would work out money-wise with respect to performance.  Additionally, I also compared each year if Markakis would have 500 plate appearances.  Wait, are you not setting 500 plate appearances as an arbitrary given that makes your point for you?  Well, no-ish. 

Typically, I keep to the number of plate appearances because it considers injury and effectiveness.  In the case of Markakis' comp group, I think it does those things poorly.  His comp group is largely made up of part-time players with half not surpassing the 1000 PA benchmark during the 29-31 age seasons.  Contact oriented corner outfielders with no power and no effective speed are rather difficult to find and, it appears, difficult to appreciate.  That lack of appreciation may have forced players into part time roles even though they were capable of handling larger responsibilities.  Therefore, I thought it fair to a more full season Markakis in order to estimate his true value.  I did not take it out to his customary 700 plate appearances because I thought that overestimated his health.

WAR $ WAR500 $500
2016 1.3 8.9 1.6 10.9
2017 0.9 6.6 1.5 11.4
2018 0.9 7.1 1.5 11.6
22.6 33.9

If we adhere to the projection model, then we will conclude that any deal would need about $9 million dollars going to the Orioles to offset the contract.  A third level player, like left hander Tim Berry who had a difficult 2015 with respect to performance and health, but who had been considered a potential back-end rotation breakout arm, would be thrown into the deal to make it palatable. However, if we focused on Markakis being a full-time player, we do not see much age in the near term.  As such, his contract is a 2 MM underpay.  This would mean a low second tier prospect like righthander David Hess or outfielder Dariel Alvarez.  The difference in cost depends largely on how the Braves view him (which is likely as a bit of a contractural albatross) and how many other clubs, like the Royals, find him valuable.

Bottom line, if Markakis could be protected against strong southpaws then this would appear to be a solid move.  A player like Nolan Reimold could pick up the other 200 plate appearance and deliver a 1 WAR, which would make right field fringe first division in terms of performance at a cost about 10 MM less than getting a true first division RF.  It may not be the flashiest proposed add-on, but he would provide value on the field and, supposedly, off of it as well.

Of course, taking on 10.5 MM in 2016 would bring the overall payroll to about 124.  That does not leave much room for a Justin Upton or Scott Kazmir.  In this case, it might be best to pair up Hess and Alvarez or maybe put in a more full-fledged prospect like Hunter Harvey along with international pool money in order for the Braves to kick in some money.  If the Orioles could get a 7 MM payment for 2016 in addition to giving up a million in international spending, then the club could be sitting effectively at 115 MM.  If they could slightly backload Upton's contract and then add a southpaw like Hector Santiago in a trade, then 2016's payroll should be able to snugly fit under 140 MM.  That amount, I think, is reasonable.  Plus, 2017 will see Mark Trumbo, Matt Wieters, and Brian Matusz gone with about 30 MM in salaries departing as well.

Would you welcome Nick back?


Anonymous said...

Yup 100% if BA didn't let his ego get in the way when he lost his mined like he did when Davis broke his hr record Markakis would have past him on his hits record we could have had 182 hits at the top of the order Shame on Dd and BA

David said...

^^^^ Who let the Philly sports talk radio caller into Camden Depot?