The MLB Winter Meetings start up today and go through Thursday, December 12th, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront in San Diego. Outside of the official trade deadline day at the end of July, the Winter Meetings are by far the busiest days in regards to MLB player transactions.
Under Neal Huntington, the Pittsburgh Pirates have used the Winter Meetings to sign players to smaller contracts in the $1-3 million range and to make minor trades with other teams. These trades normally include the phrase cash considerations or the phrase reclamation project. However, things might be different under GM Ben Cherington. Here are the three goals Cherington should have over the next few days in San Diego.
Trade Starling Marte
This is probably the most obvious of my three goals for Cherington, but it is also the most important. The Pirates seem to agree with me since they have made a formal announcement that Starling Marte is on the trading block. This truly is a new tone for the Pirates. The days of ambiguity under Huntington are gone. In Cherington’s regime, the Pirates are not shooting to be average every year, the goal is to win big. And no one needs 10,000 simulations to know that the Pirates have to at least partially rebuild to win big.
Marte is a great candidate to be traded for many reasons. He has only two remaining years on his contract, which is useful for a team that is currently contending, but clearly not for the Pirates. The salary for those two years are $11.5 and $12.5 million dollars, which is extremely affordable for a player of Marte’s caliber. On top of this Marte will play the 2020 season at the age of 31 – which is still considered a player’s prime.
Last season Marte slashed .295/.342/.503/.845 with 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases, and these numbers would have been even better if not for a late season injury. Marte’s defensive statistics were below average in 2019, but 2019 truly seems to be an outlier as Marte has two Gold Gloves and has rating above average defensively every single year.
Putting Marte’s contract and numbers together results in a player that is both affordable and well above replacement at an extremely valuable center-field position. MLB Trade Rumors list potential suitors as the Phillies, Cubs, Reds, D-Backs, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Braves, and White Sox – so hopefully the market will be robust and Cherington will have his pick of prospects.
Best case scenario – Cherington gets a high-end pitching or catching prospect and a mid-tier catching or pitching prospect. In fact, this might help to address the second main goal Cherington should have at the Winter Meetings.