|Nick Markakis is solid, but he's no Jason Heyward (Huffington Post)|
Now, at $44 million over the next four years Markakis is going to cost Atlanta a lot less than Jason Heyward would have (Heyward's going to be a free agent next winter), but he's also not nearly the player Heyward is. Over the past four seasons, Markakis was worth 5.8 fWAR, while Heyward was worth 5.1 fWAR last year alone. Since 2010, Heyward's rookie season, he's compiled 21.4 fWAR to Markakis's 8.2. The gulf between them is only going to grow wider, as the 31 year-old Markakis is exiting his prime while Heyward (25) is just entering his. So while Markakis may not be as expensive as Heyward, he's hardly a bargain.
And based on how Markakis has aged, Baltimore was wise to let him walk. He peaked early, had his best season at 24, and was merely solid throughout the rest of his 20s. Now 31, his best case scenario is that he holds steady and remains a 2-2.5 win player. If he follows a normal aging curve, we'd expect him to lose about a half win per season and regress to replacement level by the end of the contract.
His decline will likely accelerate in Atlanta, as Markakis's already middling power numbers (.097 ISO in 2013-2014 combined) will suffer away from Camden Yards. Markakis made the most of his mediocre pop there, taking advantage of its close right field wall by slugging 23 of his 37 home runs at Camden over the past three years. Make him play half his games at the more neutral Turner Field, though, and he goes from being a 15-homer guy to a 10-homer guy, probably less than that as he gets older. Such pedestrian power wouldn't play at second base (looking at you, Dustin Pedroia), much less right field.
That said, Markakis does bring some positive qualities to the table. He's very durable, having played at least 147 games in all but one of his nine big league seasons. A career .290 hitter, he has great contact skills and walks a good amount too (.358 career OBP). He's a decent baserunner for his age and a capable right fielder, though not as good as his two Gold Gloves might suggest. He's never had a bad season and is a lock for solid numbers if healthy. Barring serious injury, he's a good bet to produce six or seven wins over the life of his contract for Atlanta to get its money's worth.
Then again, you could say all those things about Nori Aoki, and nobody's giving him four years and $44 million.