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Nick Markakis isn’t enough for the Braves

The time is right for the Braves to be spending, but ownership is pinching pennies.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves have re-signed Nick Markakis to a one-year deal with an option for 2020. Markakis will make a guaranteed $6 million. Coming off his best year since the Orioles were contenders, Markakis made it to his first All-Star team, and picked up MVP votes for the first time in his 13-year career.

It’s hard to find fault with a one-year deal, at least from the team’s perspective. If Markakis repeats his 2018, he can help the Braves as they attempt to win another division title. If Markakis doesn’t repeat his 2018, all it costs the Braves are a roster spot and a small amount of money for one year.

I don’t know if it’s necessary to go into all the reasons why Markakis probably won’t repeat his 2018 success. Him being good for four months in the last four years doesn’t mean he’s destined to be good again. Steamer projects him for a .297/.350/.402 slash line for a 102 wRC+ and 0.8 fWAR. He’s a fine, if unexciting, depth option especially since the Braves got him at a discount. Markakis reportedly passed on larger contracts to stay in a familiar setting.

What we can find fault with is if this move precludes the Braves from signing Bryce Harper or AJ Pollock or Marwin Gonzalez. Standing pat would be a risky move for a team that needed a collapse from the Washington Nationals to win their division.

Even with the Nationals (probably) losing Bryce Harper and the Braves picking up Josh Donaldson, Atlanta projects to finish 10 games behind Washington (and three behind the New York Mets). While admittedly projections are never perfect. the gap between the Braves and Nationals is more than one would expect, and if the season started today, the Nationals would still be the favorites to win the East.

The time is right for the Braves to be spending. Their projected 2019 payroll of ~$112 million ranks 17th in the majors. Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Johan Camargo are all making the major league minimum, so giving a three-to-four-year deal to Pollock or Gonzalez essentially comes with minimal overall financial risk.

Pollock comes with a qualifying offer attached, so the Braves would have to forfeit their third-highest draft pick. Yes, the Braves lost 13 international prospects and their third-round pick from the 2018 draft for the transgressions of John Coppolella. Losing another draft pick seems onerous, but the Braves have eight players in Baseball Prospectus’ top-101 prospects. I think the Braves can sacrifice a third-round pick to get a good player now.

Markakis makes the 2019 Braves marginally better, and the Braves still intend to improve the starting pitching. If this is the only move the Braves make to improve their outfield, it’s not enough.


Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.