ATLANTA — All-Star outfielder Nick Markakis took a significant pay cut to remain with the Atlanta Braves, even coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
Markakis and the Braves agreed Tuesday to a deal that is worth a guaranteed $6 million and includes a club option for 2020.
Markakis became a free agent after completing a $44 million, four-year deal that he signed with the Braves for the 2015 season when he left the Orioles after nine season in Baltimore.
In another sign of the dwindling demand for veteran free agents, Markakis generated only minor interest on the open market. His deal includes a $4 million salary this season, and Atlanta has a $6 million option for 2020 with a $2 million buyout.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said Markakis did have better offers but was intent on remaining with the Braves, who won the NL East title for their first playoff appearance since 2013 and have one of baseball's most exciting young rosters.
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“He was clear that we were his first choice,” Anthopoulos said. “I'm glad we got to this outcome. This is where he wanted to be. We're very excited to have him back.”
The agreement solidifies the lineup for the defending NL East champions, whose major acquisition of the offseason was free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson. It also gives the Braves the financial flexibility to pursue other deals, something they were insistent on in their negotiations with Markakis.
“Nick coming back on these terms allows us to potentially do other things,” Anthopoulos said. “This needed to come in at the right number for us.”
A Georgia native, the 35-year-old Markakis is coming off the first All-Star appearance of his 13-year career. He earned both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors last season, hitting .297 with 14 homers and 93 RBIs while starting all 162 games in right field.
The Braves will look to cut back on Markakis' playing time after he tailed off badly in the second half of the season. He was batting .323 with 10 homers and 61 RBIs at the All-Star break, but hit just .258 with four homers and 32 RBIs over the final 68 games.
That is not a huge concern, according to Anthopoulos.
“Nick was still hitting the ball extremely hard,” the GM said. “The numbers are what they are, but really what we're talking about is the last six weeks. All the other underlying factors point to someone who was still playing well.”