Jim Duquette mentioned this today on SiriusXM Radio. Duquette was the New York Mets' general manager in 2004 and he had other front office roles with the Mets and Orioles. His show, "Power Alley" with Mike Ferrin is my favorite program on MLB Network Radio.
Duquette and Ferrin were discussing Nick Markakis, the Orioles' right fielder for the past nine seasons and a fan favorite. He signed a four-year $44 million contract with the Braves yesterday, resulting in much gnashing of teeth in Baltimore.
Duquette mentioned a couple corner outfielders as fairly comparable. Here they are:
They are both about the same age. Player B is better on getting on base, Player A has a little more pop. Overall, they're pretty close, though Player B is a little better hitter, given his higher OPS and OPS+ (OPS adjusted for home park, 100=league average). Player A has more speed, given the big difference in steals. I'll add a couple things that don't show up here: Neither of them is a particularly good fielder, though Player B has a reputation as such. And to amplify the baserunning angle, A was much more successful at taking an extra base, whether going from first to third on singles (which he did on 25% of opportunities vs. 8% for B), second to home on singles (55% of opportunities vs. 38% for B), and first to home on doubles (45% of opportunities vs. 17% for B).
Player B is Nick Markakis. Player A is Alejandro de Aza, whom the Orioles acquired in a trade for two minor-leaguers last August from the White Sox after de Aza cleared waivers.
Markakis is an Orioles icon. De Aza is penciled in as a starter but, well, let's just say that there are a lot fewer kids in Charm City with Alejandro de Aza replica jerseys than those wearing Markakis's No. 21.
I'm not saying that they're equals. Markakis is the better hitter, de Aza's the better runner, and Markakis plays a more important defensive position (right) than de Aza (left). To me, that nets out to an edge for Markakis. But it's a slight one, and Duquette made a very sharp observation when he said that the two provide similar value. Had it been de Aza departing, would Orioles fans have cared? Or put another way, does the departure of an Alejandro de Aza-quality player--remember, the White Sox traded him for two fringe-y prospects--warrant the heartbreak expressed by Orioles fans?