Pittsburgh Pirates: Starling Marte Boosting Trade Value


The Pittsburgh Pirates are likely to have quite the roster makeover this upcoming offseason.  The team could sell high on an outfielder.

Things are bad for the Pittsburgh Pirates right now.  However, this was not always the case this season.  Pittsburgh Pirates fans feel like it was just yesterday that the team was 2.5 games out of the National League Central lead going into the All-Star Break.

Even with the team being in the hunt, rumors started that the team would look to make some trades, including a potential Felipe Vazquez blockbuster deal.  The Pirates came out of the break flat and quickly fell out of the playoff race.  At one point on July 31st, it seemed like a sure thing that Vazquez would be dealt.  It didn’t happen, the Bucs didn’t get an offer that they deemed fair and now they’ll enter into the offseason with him.

The fact that the team was willing to move Vazquez for the right return likely means they would be willing to trade other controllable assets as well.  One player who makes a lot of sense is outfielder Starling Marte.  Marte is entering his last year of guaranteed control, as the Pittsburgh Pirates have club options on him over the next two years.  In 2020 his options is worth $11,500,000 and in 2021 he will get $12,500,000.  For the production and player, Marte is a great value at those rates.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates were willing to trade their other highly valuable asset in Felipe Vazquez, who was all the more valuable because of his cheap contract, then Starling Marte likely will be on the block as well.  The Bucs know that in two years Marte will walk away in free agency and get a big-money deal from another team. A very comparable player to Marte is Lorenzo Cain, an elite defensive player with speed and some pop in the offensive profile, and who has accumulated a similar WAR total.  Cain signed a contract worth $80,000,000 over five years.

If Marte can get anything close to that, he will not be a Pittsburgh Pirate after 2021.  So why not sell high now on him?  Marte is helping his case of being an attractive trade chip as there has not been too many better hitting outfielders in the Majors since the break.  Marte has hit above .298 every month this year except April.  He also has 20 home runs, tying a his career-high, and he is on pace for his second consecutive 20-20 season.

The other factor in this is the market could be quite robust for the Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder.  The upcoming class of center field free agents is one of the more underwhelming classes in a while.  Here is the list of centerfielders who will be free agents this offseason (courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors):

"“Peter Bourjos (33)Jarrod Dyson (35)Billy Hamilton (29) — $7.5MM mutual option with a $1MM buyoutAustin Jackson (33)Jon Jay (35)Adam Jones (34)Juan Lagares (31) — $9.5MM club option with a $500K buyoutStarling Marte (31) — $11.5MM club option for 2020 with a $2MM buyoutLeonys Martin (32)Cameron Maybin (33)Chris Owings (28)”"

Obviously, Starling Marte is on that list, and whether he is dealt or still with the Bucs his option will be picked up.  Outside of Marte, there is not one player on that list that a team would deem to be impactful.  The list if full of platoon players and aging veterans.  If there is a team looking to upgrade their center field situation they will not have much luck on the current projected free-agent market.  Even in left field, where Marte hs proven to be better defensively, has a weak market outside of Marcell Ozuna and JD Martinez (who projects much better as a DH).

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The fact is the Pittsburgh Pirates are a small market team that will always operate in small market ways.  Starling Marte’s value as a player may never be higher as it is right now.  He is having a career year and is on a very friendly contract.  Furthermore, with such a weak free-agent class, the Bucs may be able to get a big-time package back to make it worth it.  Just like Vazquez, the Bucs do not have to trade Marte, but likely will if the return is right.  This offseason the return will likely be there.