Nick Markakis: Free Agent Spotlight 2015

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With all the chatter surrounding the Mariners and Nelson Cruz, it’s appropriate to turn this week’s Free Agent Spotlight to another member of the Orioles outfield: Nick Markakis.

Markakis, the 2006 rookie of the year,  is a career Oriole, and although he is a lefty, he fits the bill as the kind of player that the M’s have been putting on their roster in past years.

Pros:

Markakis is an A+ fielder, a decent hitter, and fairly speedy to boot. Last year with the Orioles, Markakis hit .276/.342/.386, with 50 RBIs and 14 home runs. He just turned 31, so he’s got some good baseball ahead of him still. After all, the M’s signed Robinson Cano at age 31 as well, so it’s not an out of the question proposal to give him a decent length contract.

In a hypothetical world where the Mariners end up sending Michael Saunders somewhere (which is a mistake) and not getting an outfielder in return (Cruz and Justin Upton are the current rumors), Markakis slides nicely into Saunders’ spot in the lineup as a more consistent batter. In this scenario, the M’s would sacrifice Saunders’ speed, which wasn’t utilized as much as it could be in the first place, for Markakis’ consistency. Both players had four steals last year.

It might not be particularly expensive for the M’s to lure Markakis away from Baltimore either. He made $15 million last year, and might take a roughly the same amount for four or five years to have the chance to come play with Cano and Felix Hernandez. Something amounting no more than $80 million would be appropriate for a deal that long.

Markakis is also a durable player. From 2009 to 2011, he missed only five games. After suffering through a broken thumb during the 2012 season that left him only playing 104 games, he went right back to the grind in 2013, showing up in 160 games. Last season, he played in 155 games, so I guess technically he had a down year, but that’s just nit picking.

Cons:

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To move back to a more realistic expectation of Mariners moves this off-season, Markakis doesn’t really fit in the starting lineup anywhere besides DH. As mentioned before, the M’s would appear to be pushing hard for either Nelson Cruz or Justin Upton, and either of those players would occupy the right field spot on the depth chart, and Markakis doesn’t have the power that would make him a good DH in the American League. His slugging percent of .386 definitely leaves something to be desired out of a DH.

To throw in a little bit of sabermetrics in to the equation, Markakis doesn’t add much “winning potential,” posting a 2.1 WAR last season in all those games. Saunders’ was 2.4 last season, for reference.

So, where does he fit in?

As mentioned before, unless things fall perfectly, the M’s won’t have a starting roster spot for Markakis. He would fit in as a fourth outfielder for sure, which, depending on who else the Mariners pick up once the winter meetings kick off, would make the M’s outfield s force to be reckoned with.

Synopsis:

Markakis is definitely a worthy pickup, but only if he comes at the right price and the M’s don’t pick up somebody else that they like better, like Cruz or Upton.

Sidebar: I’m currently in the process of writing an opinion on why picking up Upton is a bad idea for what it would cost the M’s, be sure to check back later for that.

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