Posted on January 22, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Atlanta Braves Nick Markakis
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The Atlanta Braves made a couple big moves early in the offseason, only to follow up with a long period of inaction. However, the Braves were back at it again on Tuesday, welcoming back old friend Nick Markakis. The Braves re-signed Markakis for one year, guaranteeing him $6 million. Markakis will make $4 million in 2019 with the Braves holding either a $6 million option for 2020 or a buyout of $2 million. He reportedly had offers for more money but preferred a return to Atlanta.

Markakis has spent the last four seasons with the Braves, signing a four-year, $44 million deal with Atlanta prior to the 2015 season. For much of that time, his numbers dropped off noticeably from what he did earlier in his career with the Orioles. However, 2018 turned into one of the best seasons of his career. Markakis hit .297 with an OPS of .806 while starting every game and serving as the team’s cleanup hitter. He also earned his first all-star selection and Silver Slugger award while also winning a Gold Glove for the third time in his career.

Despite accomplishing all of that, the 35-year old found a rather tepid free agent market this winter. Markakis has never been a major power threat and his home run totals have continued to drop during his time in Atlanta. At his age, his power isn’t likely to improve, even if he can still hit for a good average, drive in runs, and play quality defense in the outfield. Of course, at such an affordable price, the Braves will be happy to have him back, especially since they already know him well and know he fits into their clubhouse.

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Despite starting every game last season, Markakis could end up in a platoon situation this season, sharing time in right field with Adam Duvall. The Braves traded for Duvall last summer, although the change of scenery didn’t do much to improve his performance after a world of problems the first half of the season in Cincinnati. However, Duvall hit 64 home runs between 2016 and 2017, posing a serious threat to left-handed pitchers.

With Markakis performing better against righties in his career, he and Duvall could form a productive tandem for the Braves in right field. Meanwhile, Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuna Jr. will hold down the other two spots in Atlanta’s outfield.

The days of Markakis batting in the cleanup spot also appear to be over. The Braves signed Josh Donaldson early in the offseason to help provide some protection for Freddie Freeman in the middle of the order. Brian McCann, who is also returning to the Braves gives Atlanta another middle-of-the-order bat. Of course, given his lack of power, Markakis is a better fit to hit down in the order. He will also give Atlanta’s lineup a little more depth than they had last year.

At the end of the day, the Braves are re-signing Markakis to be a part-time player and supplementary piece of their roster in 2019. Needless to say, there’s nothing wrong with a reigning Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner being part of a team’s supporting cast. Even if Father Time continues to cause a drop-off in Markakis’ productivity, it’s a safe bet he will be a consistent contributor to the Braves in 2019 as Atlanta tries to defend their NL East title.

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