Free agent outfielder Nick Markakis agreed Tuesday to a one-year deal worth $6 million guaranteed with the Atlanta Braves, returning to the defending National League East champions after turning in his best season in nearly a decade.
The 35-year-old Markakis served as the Braves' cleanup hitter in 2018, earning his first All-Star appearance and hitting .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs, 43 doubles and 93 RBIs while playing in all 162 games. While his production trailed off in the second half of the season -- he hit .258/.332/.369 after the All-Star break -- Markakis was well-liked throughout the Braves organization, including inside the clubhouse by the young and ascendant team.
The deal will pay Markakis a $4 million base in 2019 and includes a $6 million club option for 2020 that comes with a $2 million buyout. He was a free agent after completing a $44 million, four-year deal with Atlanta.
"I'm not mad at all,'' he said of the cut in salary. "I play a kids' game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed in that?''
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said Markakis did have better offers but was intent on remaining with the Braves.
"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.''
Markakis joins a lineup that grew increasingly dangerous last season with the second-half star turn of rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. and that also includes star first baseman Freddie Freeman and third baseman Josh Donaldson, who signed a one-year, $23 million deal early in free agency. Along with center fielder Ender Inciarte, Markakis is a low-strikeout, high-contact hitter who can mitigate some of the Braves' swing-and-miss tendencies and deepen a lineup that complements a young, hard-throwing pitching staff.
"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.''
The Braves are planning to turn Johan Camargo into a super sub who will get extensive time at second base, shortstop and third base, with perhaps an occasional start in left field. The Braves will likely shift Acuna from left to right field for some games, allowing Markakis to take time off with an eye toward being stronger late in the season.
"He's still going to be an everyday player,'' Anthopoulos said. "We don't expect him play 162 games ... but we're not committed to a number. We just know it's not optimal for everyone to play every single game from a recovery standpoint. You're best served by giving guys a day off here and there.''
The team already has been discussing potential lineups now that Markakis is back on board.
Manager Brian Snitker is leaning toward moving Inciarte back to the leadoff spot, where Acuna thrived last season, which would allow the rookie star to drop down into the cleanup spot. Donaldson would hit second, followed by Freeman, Acuna and Markakis, setting up an order that goes back and forth between left- and right-handed hitters. Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and whoever is catching -- either Tyler Flowers or Brian McCann -- would fill out the bottom of the lineup.
Markakis, who has just 25 errors over his 13 career seasons and holds the MLB record for consecutive games played without an error for a non-pitcher (398), won his third Gold Glove Award in 2018. He also won his first Silver Slugger honor, and his 474 career doubles -- he has at least 24 in each season of his career -- ranks fifth among all active players.
Prior to joining the Braves, Markakis played nine seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Overall, he has a career .288 batting average with 179 home runs, 969 RBIs and 1,043 runs scored. He ranks sixth among all active MLB players in games played (2,001), plate appearances (8,711) and hits (2,237).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.