Potential Cincinnati Reds Free Agent Target: Nick Markakis


Oct 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis hits a single against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning in game three of the 2014 ALCS playoff baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Cincinnati Reds were plagued by a lack of offensive production that cannibalized a competitive first half and a surprisingly strong showing by the starting pitching staff. As the off-season looms, the Reds need to find a way to beef up their offense, and left field is a prime candidate for improvement. There is no perfect upgrade available, so the Reds will have to get creative, and we’ll look at various options for the team in this space, starting with likely free agent Nick Markakis.

Why He’s Available

Markakis has been a mainstay in the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup for the last nine years, and he finally helped them get to the playoffs in 2014. Even so, he will turn 31 in November and has played himself into the land of hefty contracts: Baltimore holds a $17.5 million option for next season or can buy him out for $2 million. The latter will almost certainly happen, though Steve Adams at MLBTradeRumors.com thinks there is a chance that the Orioles will turn right around and make a qualifying offer to Markakis, which would be for $15.3 million.

Either way, Markakis will be on the market after the World Series.

Why He Fits for the Reds

With the exception of 2012 when he missed 50+ games due to a broken wrist, Markakis has been a rock for the Orioles, regularly logging 145+ games in the outfield each season, and usually more. He may not be a masher, but Markakis will give you 10-15 homers, can get on base and won’t clog the basepaths when he IS on.  His career OPS+ is 113, and last year he stood at 107, so he is still a win offensively.

Markakis is about average, or even a couple of shades below, in the field, but his offense more than compensates.

Overall, he would represent a nice step up from Ryan Ludwick, and that is essential for a Reds team that has, maybe, one year left to win something before the pieces really start falling apart.

Why He Might NOT Fit for the Reds

The biggest reason that Markakis would be a stretch for the Reds is his salary. Adams expects for Markakis to end up with a 3- or 4-year contract for between $39-48 million. That’s a lot of scratch for a team like Cincinnati to throw at a 31-year-old, especially when they already owe the company store to Joey Votto.

The other knock on Markakis as far as the Reds go is that he hasn’t played left field since his rookie season in 2006, and then for only 26 games. There is little doubt he could handle the transition, but would still be a transition.

Reds Prediction

When you put it all together, it’s hard to see the Reds making any kind of real push for Markakis. He’s a little too old, a little too expensive and a little too inexperienced in left field to shake loose the requisite millions from owner Bob Castellini’s change purse.

Even if general manage Walt Jocketty somehow does get the green light to spend on free agents, the length of contract that Markakis will demand doesn’t make a lot of sense for this Reds team. If they could get him for one year, then maybe.

In the end, Markakis will land somewhere other than on the Riverfront.