Braves re-sign Nick Markakis to 1-year contract with 2020 club option

Nick Markakis is returning to the Atlanta Braves.

The veteran outfielder agreed to terms on a one-year, $4 million contract with a 2020 club option worth $6 million after taking home All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors. The contract includes a $2 million buyout.

“Nick clearly wanted to be back. He made that very evident throughout this process,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “Our understanding is that he had stronger financial deals in AAV (average annual value) and years than he accepted here, which is a reflection of him wanting to be here and a reflection of the organization, his teammates, staff, everybody at the Braves that have made this a great place to place. Like Brian McCann, Nick made this deal get done.”

Markakis, who will be entering his age-35 season, returns to Atlanta’s outfield after his best offensive season since 2012, hitting 14 percent above league average and posting 2.6 wins above replacement.

“I think the tipping point was my kids. I asked them where they wanted Dad to be, and they all said Braves,” Markakis said. “How could I say no to that?”

The left-handed bat responsible for 2,237 career hits — ranking behind only Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano among active players — returns to the fold after slashing .297/.366/.440 from the cleanup spot and playing every game in right field, though his productivity declined dramatically in the second half.

Markakis ranked 50th out of 60 qualified outfielders in weighted runs created plus in the second half, but Anthopoulos and manager Brian Snitker have both underscored the need to rest players more in 2019.

“In terms of the dip in performance the last two months of the year, we took a look at this and really from the middle of August to the end, to the last six weeks, and the one thing is that Nick still hit the ball extremely hard. His exit velocities were still very good at the end,” Anthopoulos said. “We do think there’s a fatigue component to it. He just hit the ball on the ground a little bit more, but we do think with more rest he has the potential to maintain the performance that he had the first four and a half months.”

Markakis said he’s open to taking more days off during the season’s 162-game grind.

Of the notable outfielders available in free agency this offseason, Markakis signed perhaps the most team-friendly deal on the market considering his 2018 production (sorted by FanGraphs’ wins above replacement):

2018 WAR Guaranteed Total Value
Michael Brantley 3.5 $32 million
Bryce Harper 3.5 N/A
Andrew McCutchen 2.6 $50 million
Nick Markakis 2.6 $6 million
Brett Gardner 2.5 $9.5 million
A.J. Pollock 2.5 N/A

However, Markakis said he does not view his free-agent market as a disappointment.

“I’m not mad at all,” Markakis said. “I play a kid’s game and get paid a lot of money. So how can I be disappointed in that?”

Markakis will join fellow 2018 Gold Glove winner Ender Inciarte and reigning National League Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña Jr. in Atlanta’s outfield for the second consecutive season with Adam Duvall, Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson currently under contract as outfield depth options.

Brian Snitker and the Braves are internally leaning toward Markakis hitting in the fifth spot in the order at the moment with Inciarte moving back to leadoff ahead with Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman and Acuña filling out the middle of the order, according to Anthopoulos. This lineup construction would be a departure from Acuña leading off, where he was one of baseball’s best hitters last season, in favor of alternating left- and right-handed bats.

Earlier in the offseason, Anthopoulos said he favored giving his best players the most plate appearances possible with Acuña, Donaldson and Freeman hitting at the top, though he’s stressed that the manager has the final say on lineup construction.

“I think Snit is more bullish, and I think we are internally as well, that Ender has a chance to be the guy that he was in 2017 for us,” Anthopoulos said of moving Inciarte back to leadoff. ” … Obviously when we get to spring training and Opening Day we’ll see where he is on that.”

The Braves’ Opening Day payroll is projected to be approximately $115 million after signing the veteran and the 40-man roster is now full.

“Certainly Nick coming back on these terms allows us to pursue some other things, gives us financial flexibility to still pursue other areas to improve the club,” Anthopoulos said. “We’re going to continue to do that.”