Posted on November 4, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
After winning back-to-back division titles, the Atlanta Braves are trying to keep the band together as much as possible. Monday, the Braves re-signed both outfielder Nick Markakis and catcher Tyler Flowers to one-year deals to keep both players in Atlanta in 2020. Both signed $4 million contracts, although each will get $6 million out of the deal. Meanwhile, the Braves have also declined Julio Teheran’s $12 million option for next season. Instead, Teheran will become a free agent and receive a $1 million buyout.
The Braves were rather savvy in how they went about re-signing Markakis and Flowers. Both players had $6 million options for next season. The club declined the option for both, giving them each a $2 million buyout. However, they then turned around and signed both to a $4 million deal for one season.
That means, both Markakis and Flowers will get the $6 million they would have received had the Braves picked up the option. But the Braves are only adding $8 million to their 2020 payroll rather than $12 million, as the buyouts count toward their 2019 payroll. In other words, the Braves are trying to preserve payroll in preparation for a spending spree this winter. They saved even more money by declining Teheran’s option.
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Atlanta’s top target this winter could be keeping another key member of their 2019 team, third baseman Josh Donaldson. The Braves made Donaldson a qualifying offer of $17.8 million on Monday. He could accept that offer and return to Atlanta for one more year or test his luck on the open market. If Donaldson declines the qualifying offer, the Braves could still sign him, using some of the money they’ve already saved. Even if Donaldson signs elsewhere, the Braves would get an extra draft pick.
Donaldson, who turns 34 in December, was arguably Atlanta’s second-best hitter behind Freddie Freeman this past season. After injuries held him back in 2017 and 2018, Donaldson hit .259 with 37 home runs in 2019, producing an OPS of .900. After that kind of production, it’s not surprising that the Braves are eager to have Donaldson back in 2020, as they eye another postseason run.
While Donaldson’s fate remains uncertain, re-signing Markakis and Flowers keeps two important pieces of the puzzle intact. The almost 36-year-old Markakis had another productive year as Atlanta’s right fielder. Despite hitting just nine home runs, the veteran still hit .285 with an OPS of .776, which was helped along by 25 doubles. Even if he ends up in a platoon, Markakis will be the team’s primary right fielder in 2020.
Meanwhile, re-signing Flowers gives the Braves at least one veteran catcher to continue working with their young pitching staff. The 33-year-old split time with Brian McCann this past season, hitting .229 with an OPS of .733. With McCann retiring, the Braves are likely to be in the market for another catcher this offseason. If nothing else, Flowers will be a reliable backup who is sound defensively, even if his offense has been a little lacking the past couple of seasons.
On the surface, retaining Markakis and Flowers aren’t major moves that will needle much for the Braves. However, both were important parts of the team’s success the past two seasons. Despite both being a little on the older side, both should continue to be key role players for Atlanta. Equally important is the fact that the Braves re-signed both while saving a little bit of money that should help them make more aggressive moves this winter.