The Atlanta Braves finally brought in an outfielder on Monday with the return of Nick Markakis on a one-year deal that includes a club option for the 2020 season. The return of Markakis wasn’t the big splash that many fans were looking for but it sounds like something that the Braves and Markakis had been eyeing for a while.
Alex Anthopoulos held a conference call with reporters after the deal was announced and touched on a variety of subjects. He indicated that Markakis turned down more lucrative offers to remain in Atlanta.
Anthopoulos: #Braves were able to come to terms on a deal with Markakis on Sunday night. He had stronger deals on years and AAV.— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) January 22, 2019
According to Anthopoulos, the Braves had a number for Markakis and it was important that they were able to get him at that price saying that it would allow the club to have the financial flexibility to pursue other upgrades.
“Nick coming back on these terms allows us to pursue other things, have financial flexibility to improve the club in other ways.” -Anthopoulos— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurnsAJC) January 22, 2019
Some of the trepidation about bringing Markakis back even on a short deal had to do with the his drop off in the second half of the season. He had a wRC+ of 133 through 94 games in the first half. That dropped to just 88 over the final 64 games of the season. Anthopoulos talked about Markakis’ decline during the second half and believes that with more time off he will be able to have sustained success. Markakis played in all 162 games last season but Anthopoulos has mentioned more than once this offseason the need for regulars like Markakis and Freeman to get days off.
Anthopoulos says amid Markakis' dip, still saw high exit velocity and believe with rest, can maintain early-season production. #Braves— Cory McCartney (@coryjmccartney) January 22, 2019
With that said, expect to see Markakis as the team’s everyday outfielder at least at the start of the season. Adam Duvall and perhaps Johan Camargo or another addition could also figure into the outfield picture.
Markakis will still be the everyday player in right, but won't start 162 games again like last year. No specific number in mind, but #Braves' GM Anthopoulos said he and Freddie will at least get some starts off, might play in some games they don't start.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) January 22, 2019
Bringing Markakis in on a one-year, $4 million deal won’t preclude the Braves from making other moves but Anthopoulos did not disclose what they might be looking for. He mentioned the bullpen, bench and a starter as possible additions.
Anthopoulos said they aren't prioritizing any specific position now. Did mention bullpen, bench and starter.— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurnsAJC) January 22, 2019
Regarding starter, happy with internal options but "if we have someone more established that we think is an improvement or upgrade, we’ll do it."
Anthopoulos also discussed possible lineup configurations for the Braves and said that Brian Snitker was considering returning Ender Inciarte to the leadoff spot with Josh Donaldson hitting second and Ronald Acuña dropping down into the cleanup spot behind Freddie Freeman. Markakis would likely slot into the fifth spot in that scenario.
Anthopoulos said Snitker leading toward #Braves lineup with Inciarte, Donaldson, Freeman, Acuña cleanup and Markakis fifth. Not set in stone, but that's how leaning now.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) January 22, 2019
Of course we still have a few weeks remaining between now and the start of spring training so things could change again. For now, it looks like the Braves have answered their Opening Day outfield question.