Not giving homegrown phenom Jason Heyward a big contract was seen as a mistake by some, but another local kid made that move look brilliant in the end.
During the 2014 offseason, the Atlanta Braves traded away homegrown phenom Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals. A couple of weeks later, the team added veteran Oriole Nick Markakis to a four-year deal.
It was over two years ago that my good friend Josh Brown wrote an opinion piece here at Tomahawk Take, explaining why Nick Markakis was a better baseball player than Jason Heyward. The backlash continues to be something of Twitter legend in #BravesFam circles.
What’s even more plain to see after four seasons of comparison, however, is that it turns out Josh was right. In an effort of full disclosure, I always thought Josh was right on this subject and took a few lashings of my own for jumping to defend him. It’s now more clear than ever that Atlanta made the right moves in ending up with Markakis and dumping Heyward’s contract.
There’s been a hometown kid patrolling right field for Atlanta for the better part of a dozen years, ever since Jeff Francoeur made his big league debut back in 2005. When a local kid with lots of hype gets traded away it can feel a little personal for fans. Frenchy, then Heyward… but Markakis is a Georgia guy too, and in the end he’s been one of the more consistent hitting right fielders in recent memory for Atlanta.
Prior to his outright claim that Markakis was better than Heyward, Josh Brown simply did a piece pointing out how consistently productive his career had been to that point, and even that was met with resistance. Many a tweet and online comment has aged very, very poorly since those Tomahawk Take pieces were published.
The Cubs, never having the luxury of reading Josh’s work, signed Jason Heyward to a massive contract of eight years at $184 million and a $20 million signing bonus. Here are the numbers they go for that hefty amount:
- 2016 – .230 BA, 122 H, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 61 R, 27 2B
- 2017 – .259 BA, 112 H, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 59 R, 15 2B
- 2018 – . 270 BA, 119 H, 8 HR, 57 RBI, 67 R, 23 2B
Include are wRC+ (scaled/weighted runs created) scores of 72, 88, and 99 (all above league average) and 4.0 fWAR… total*.
Markakis just wrapped up a four-year, $44 million contract that included a $2 million signing bonus. Here’s what the Braves got for that:
- 2015 – .296 BA, 181 H, 3 HR, 53 RBI, 73 R, 38 2B
- 2016 – .269 BA, 161 H, 13 HR, 89 RBI, 67 R, 38 2B
- 2017 – .275 BA, 163 H, 8 HR, 76 RBI, 76 R, 39 2B
- 2018 – .297 BA, 185 H, 14 HR, 93 RBI, 78 R, 43 2B
Nick’s wRC+ numbers? 106, 98, 93,114 along with 5.7 fWAR.
It should be noted that Heyward did get a pair of Gold Glove awards (2016-17) and both he and Markakis are finalists for the award following the 2018 season.
* -Yes, this intentionally omits his ‘good’ 2015 year, but this is about comparing the dollars the braves spent vs. what they might have spent with Heyward.
Counting the Costs
In the end, any comparison of Heyward and Markakis will have to come down to the monetary cost compared to each man’s production on the field.
Offensively speakingm Markakis has won both head-to-head and production per dollar spent. It hasn’t even been a contest. Not even close when compared overall, or financially speaking.
The moral of the story is that the Braves got a good deal in one of the most consistently solid hitters in the game of baseball for four seasons and avoided overpaying for a player who went on to prove their decision to be a correct one.
Of course, the other moral of the story is – for many, many reasons – don’t argue with Josh Brown on Twitter. And no, he’s neither ghost-writing this, nor has he paid a bribe… though I wouldn’t turn it down if offered.
Atlanta’s decision to move on from Jason Heyward, especially during the rebuild process, has panned out and Nick Markakis has been the perfect answer at right field and a nice veteran presence in the clubhouse as young players debut.
Even without a comparison between the two players, Braves fans should be thankful that a player like Markakis was available and that he did exactly what he was paid to do for Atlanta.