Braves agree to 4-year deal with OF Nick Markakis
ATLANTA (AP) — Moving to fill an outfield void after the trade of Jason Heyward, the Atlanta Braves agreed Wednesday to a four-year contract with free agent Nick Markakis.
The Braves probably aren’t done dealing, either.
The 31-year-old Markakis spent the first nine years of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. This past season, he batted .276 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs while winning his second Gold Glove.
The deal is contingent on Markakis passing a physical. Terms were not announced by the team, but multiple reports indicated it was worth $44 million.
Heyward was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals last month in a four-player deal that brought pitcher Shelby Miller to the Braves.
It was the first major trade by new general manager John Hart, who said the team was unlikely to sign Heyward to a long-term contract and didn’t want to risk losing him as a free agent after the 2015 season.
The signing of Markakis is likely to intensify trade interest in two other Atlanta sluggers: Justin Upton and Evan Gattis.
Upton, who led the Braves with 29 homers and 102 RBIs, also is entering the final year of his contract and would surely bring back even more in a trade than Heyward.
Gattis has primarily played catcher with the Braves, but top prospect Christian Bethancourt is set to take over behind the plate next season. If Gattis stays in Atlanta, he would move to left field to keep a much-needed bat in the lineup, though he has major limitations defensively, making him a much better fit for an AL team that could use him as a designated hitter.
Markakis became the second key player to leave the AL East champion Orioles this week. All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz, who led the majors with 40 home runs last season, agreed to a deal with the Seattle Mariners.
“You don’t want my opinion!!!!!!!!” Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones tweeted Wednesday.
Markakis, who played his high school ball in suburban Woodstock, Georgia, has been a reliable contributor for the Orioles, though his offense steadily tailed off after a career-high 23 homers with 112 RBIs in 2007. He has played at least 155 games in seven of his nine seasons, with a career average of .290. He also won a Gold Glove in 2011 and provides a solid defensive replacement in right field for the Gold Glove-winning Heyward.
Markakis has not made an error in the outfield since Aug. 11, 2012, a stretch of 328 games. He was just eight games shy of the AL record, though he still has a shot at the major league record of 392 consecutive error-free games set by Darren Lewis from 1990-94.
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