This week, New York Post columnist Joel Sherman made a case that the Mets should target soon-to-be free agent outfielder Nick Markakis.
He can hit leadoff. He had a .342 on-base percentage this season, .358 for his career, has a habit of turning at-bats serial (3.97 pitch per plate appearance average) and doesn’t back down as a lefty hitter against lefty pitching. He is an excellent two-way player, a pro, a grinder and durable — he has played 147 or more games in eight of his nine seasons.
Sherman acknowledges that Markakis has flaws: his power is limited, he’s 31 and could already be in the declining years of his career, and he’s going to cost a fair amount of money – Sherman estimates three years and $40 million for a starting point.
Those are some pretty significant flaws.
But if Yasmani Tomas is too big of a risk, Michael Cuddyer is five years older and both Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz are going to get even more money, Markakis is worth a longer look.
Lucas Duda led the 2014 Mets with a .349 on-base percentage. Ruben Tejada was second among Mets regulars at .342 – the same as Markakis. (The Orioles’ outfielder had a .386 slugging percentage — which would have been among the middle of the pack, just behind Curtis Granderson’s .388 mark. Tejada had a .310 slugging percentage.)
Markakis’ career numbers are even better, but they paint a worrying picture: 2013 and 2014 are the two worst seasons of a nine-year career. Factor in the move from hitter-friendly Camden Yards to the more neutral Citi Field and that trend could get scary very quickly.
Add in the finances: David Wright is due $20 million per season each of the next three years. Granderson is due $16 million, $16 million, and $15 million during that time. Add in three years at $13.5 million per season to sign Markakis and you would have between $48.5 million and $49.5 million tied up with three aging players. A team that expects its payroll to remain in the $100 million range can’t afford that commitment.
Who knows? Maybe Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis can become a Markakis-type hitter. But Markakis himself looks like a bad gamble for the Mets.
4 thoughts on “Does Nick Markakis make sense for the Mets?”
Obviously not a Mets fan, but when I read this in the Post today, I shook my head. He’s a fine player, but on the wrong side of 30, and the second half he had was pretty brutal. I think he was in a 9 for 100-type of slump. Considering the likely draft pick he would cost plus multiyear salary in the 13-15mil range, I’d be scared of that signing as a Met fan.
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I don’t think the draft pick will factor in – if the Orioles had room in their budget to risk Markakis accepting a qualifying offer, they could have just picked up his option.
The talent could still be there, but any team would have to be wary about counting Nick Markakis and Curtis Granderson as their starting corner outfielders for the next three years. A team with payroll limitations would be nuts to do it.
He would be too typical of the kind of free agent the Mets always seem to sign. Too old for the money they’d have to dish out. Wrong side of his career. They need to be thinking trade about now.
For a few million and no draft choice it might be OK to take a flyer. But, $40 mil/3 yrs. for a guy who certainly looks as if he’s on the down side of his career is nuts.
And, did someone say “leadoff hitter?” (Not me) .342 on base and not a stolen base threat isn’t a leadoff hitter. And his defense, at best, is average.If there was a guy who could be considered the poster boy for “decline phase of his career,” it would be Markakis.
If the Mets pick up a couple veterans over the winter–Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter types in return for some of their pitching wealth and get rid of George Foster, uh, sorry, Curtis Granderson, they could look like the ’85 Mets next year. And we know what came after ’85.
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