Should the Cubs Target Nick Markakis? Let’s See What the Numbers Say

Nick Markakis was long thought to be a sure thing to head back to Baltimore this offseason for somewhere around 4 years, $60 million. The process has gone on long enough now that some have said he is better than 50-50 to leave Baltimore for greener pastures, with the Giants, Braves and the suddenly deep-pocketed Blue Jays as possible destinations.

My question is: Should the Cubs get in on the action and try to add Markakis as a lefty bat with a patient approach that could hit towards the top of the lineup? Could he also provide the leadership that the team was looking for by pursuing Russell Martin?

The Basics

Markakis will be 31 years old for the entire 2015 season and has been with the Orioles since they drafted him in the first round (7th overall) of the 2003 draft. He has spent the better part of 9 seasons on the MLB roster and has averaged a little over 150 games per season.

His best run was from 2007-2009 when he hit near .300, averaged around 20 HRs and had close to 100 RBI. He is a fine, if maybe a little overrated, outfielder who has won two Gold Gloves (2011 and 2014). Markakis hit .258 in 7 playoff games this year, which was his only taste of postseason baseball.

In 2014, he slashed .276/.342/.386 with a wOBA of .325, along with 14 HRs and 50 RBI. All told, it was good enough for 2.5 WAR.

The Good

Markakis is a patient hitter with a career BB% of 9.3 while only striking out 13% of the time. Like I said before, he has been pretty healthy his whole career and has amassed over 1500 hits in his time in the big leagues. He would be a perfect number-two hitter on a team stocked with power prospects like the Cubs.

He is a stable individual that keeps his name out of the headlines and really keeps his head down and does his job; he isn’t going to go to the media and make a story out of nothing. By all accounts, Markakis is a leader and all-around awesome human being.

The Bad

Markakis has seen his slugging % drop from a high of .491 in 2008 to a paltry .386 in 2014. Though he is heralded as a solid defender, advanced metrics don’t back up that narrative. He has a career UZR of -5.5 and this year broke a streak of 5 straight seasons with a negative UZR (it was 6.2 in 2014).

He has turned into a mostly singles hitter, tallying 135 singles and only 42 extra base hits in 2014. His ISO (slugging minus batting average) was a sad-looking .111, which is right between poor and below average; take into account that he is a corner OF without major speed and that number really sticks out as low.

The Ugly

The Cubs already have a lefty bat that had a 9% BB%, with a triple slash of .283/.352/.452, 9 HRs, wOBA of .353 with 2.2 WAR and they only paid him around $500,000; his name: Chris Coghlan. Granted, he doesn’t have the healthy track record that Markakis does and, with the exception of 2009, Coghlan has never been as good as he was last year. But it does beg the question of whether an extra $15 million a year is worth it for Markakis’s production?

*HUGE DISCLAIMER* I’m not saying that Coghlan is the answer, either short- or long-term. In fact, he is as likely as anyone to go all Nate Schierholtz on the Cubs next year and not come close to what he did in 2014. My main point is that this is a dance the Cubs should sit out unless they can get the deal done for much less than $15 million per year.

There are other possible fits out there that I like a lot more for a left-handed bat that can play in the OF. Alex Gordon’s name was thrown out earlier in the offseason; Carlos Gonzalez, though injury-prone, is one of the most exciting players when healthy; Jason Heyward would have been great and it stings even more that he is on the Cardinals’ team now.

I for one don’t see them getting involved in the Melky Cabrera market and I would be okay with Nori Aoki as an option, though he is said to be in the market for a multi-year deal and I’m not sure that a slap hitter that can be a little adventurous on defense is the best investment for the Cubs.

It is also possible that the Cubs go with Jonny Gomes, a right-handed bat that could platoon with Coghlan in LF. It’s also possible that the Cubs will go in an entirely different direction altogether. Just as long as it isn’t in the direction of Nick Markakis.

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