The Jon Lester-to-the-Giants rumor is a good rumor. Oh, he'll be overpaid and the end of his contract will be a bloated mess, but for the rest of these cold, rainy months, we'll get to think about a rotation with Lester in it. That's exciting. Bad long-term idea. Good short-term player. Therefore, it's a good rumor.
Here is the very definition of a bad rumor, then. From Jon Heyman:
Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis, who seemed for a while to be a pretty good bet to return to the Orioles, is listening to outside offers now and said to have interest from the Braves,Blue Jays and Giants, among others.
You still get the regrettable backend of the deal, just like Lester. I don't know what a 34-year-old Markakis will hit like, but I have a hunch. The problem with that is you don't get the immediate warm offseason fuzzies that you get with a star player like Lester. It's like skipping the night of drinking to get to a mild hangover that can only get worse.
Is that too harsh on Markakis, who has spent the last six years being a perfectly okay player? Allow me to present the case against him:
He's spent the last six years being a perfectly okay player
No more, and with the exception of one outlying season, no less. He's been worth between two and three wins, every year, nice and simple. That's a good player to have. If I could guarantee the next six years would be as delightful, Markakis would be a fine solution for left field.
We cannot guarantee those six years. Which means that perfectly okay can quickly move to perfectly irritating. We're talking next year. You don't have to scour baseball history to find slightly above-average players who stop being slightly above average when they're 31 or 32. Teams aren't going to pay Markakis based on what he will do; they're going to pay him based on what he's done. Which brings us to the next point:
No, seriously, he's been perfectly okay and nothing more
We're six seasons removed from Markakis's breakout season. Golly, he was a wonder back in 2008. He was 24 and the future of the Orioles. After that, he was perfectly okay. For years.
Take the last two seasons, for example. He's hit .274. Considering the low-offense era, that's perfectly okay. He's averaged 12 home runs. That's not great, but it's perfectly okay these days. He doesn't get on base that well (.335 OBP) or make up for the dingers with a bunch of doubles (.371 SLG), but he's hit well enough to help his team win. He's been ... you get the idea.
He does everything kinda well, but nothing that makes you think he'll avoid the slow decline that most players his age face. He doesn't have the power to make you put up with faults in other aspects of his game, like Michael Morse. He doesn't have the contact skills that make you think he'll be useful into his 30s, like Melky Cabrera. He's perfectly okay now, and logic suggests he'll get worse.
There's something else to note, though.
You need to park-adjust that perfectly okay
If Markakis put those perfectly okay numbers up while playing half his games at AT&T Park, it's possible that "perfectly okay" might be upgraded to "kinda, you know, good." There would still be hedging, though. He wouldn't be the kind of unambiguously productive hitter who should make teams clamor for a three-, four-, or five-year deal.
Instead, Markakis played half his games at Camden Yards, one of baseball's sneakier hitter's parks. It adds a plethora of dingers to almost every left-hander's baseball card. Unless there's a dinger binge for Markakis in Arizona or Colorado, he might be a single-digit guy for the Giants.
Or, to use my favorite toy, here's the guesstimate from Baseball-Reference as to what Markakis's career stats would have looked like if he were playing in 2014 AT&T Park the whole time:
Wheeeeeeee. Let's compare that to the player he'd effectively replace, Gregor Blanco. Without adjusting the stats, the two were similar hitters last year. Blanco had a .707 OPS. Markakis had a .729 OPS. The year before that, Blanco was clearly better. Again, that's without adjusting the stats based on the home park. When you attempt to adjust the stats, like the numbers up there, it would be hard to find a more comparable player to Blanco.
Markakis played in a division with four hitter's parks, including his own. Blanco played in a division with three extreme pitcher's parks, including his own. There is no sane reason to ignore the park effects. Blanco is younger and faster, and silly Gold Gloves aside, plays better defense. He will also cost millions and millions and millions less than Markakis. Did you get frustrated with Blanco's extended slumps over the last two seasons? Imagine how you would have felt if he just picked up a $50 million contract and was supposed to be a key cog of the team.
This is not to suggest Blanco should be the starting left fielder. This is a point reminding you that Blanco and Markakis have eerily similar raw statistics, even though they've hit in vastly different situations.
Look at me, all riled up. This was supposed to be a quick post about a bad rumor. I just can't imagine the Giants spending roughly half of their offseason war chest on a low-power, perfectly okay player who is a poor fit for the park and will likely age past the point of usefulness right in front of our eyes, while never providing an upside for the short term that's worth that sad, slow decline. The idea just irks me.
Luckily it's just a rumor. And if the Giants could get him for three years and, dunno, $27 million or some such? I can dig it. Even if he's comparable to Blanco, that gives the Giants another perfectly okay player and extra depth. They've needed that depth for each of the last two championship runs.
If there's a team out there that's going to pay him for the promise of 2008 for some weird reason, the Giants would be fools to be curious. Nick Markakis is 31 and perfectly okay. It's hard to think of a worse type of free agent the Giants could sign to a long-term deal.