Does Nick Markakis make sense for the Mets?
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.