Pittsburgh Pirates: New Trade Rumors About Outfielder Starling Marte
By Noah Wright
More rumors have surfaced on Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte. Could a dark horse candidate emerge as the winner of these sweeptakes?
In the last 24 hours, more and more rumors have been surfacing about Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Starling Marte. One of the teams that has been connected for Marte the longest, the NY Mets, have been making a push, according to Jon Heyman:
"Hearing Starling Marte talks are intensifying. Mets, Padres. Still a chance something gets done before spring training."
However, there have been conflicting reports about the Mets’ interest in the talented outfielder. Andy Martino tweeted the following about 10 minutes after Heyman’s tweet:
"Mets and Pirates are pretty far apart on Marte talks at the moment."
But Martino stated that the Bucs’ are still looking for a haul for Marte:
"According to multiple league sources, Pirates still seem to be in stage where the ask is big — major leaguers and prospects. Probably have to come down before Marte is moved anywhere."
Now what’s true and what’s false is hard to tell right now, but it’s not surprising that the Mets are in on Marte. Currently, Brandon Nimmo tops the Mets depth chart at center field. Although Nimmo has the potential to have a better offensive season than Marte (136 OPS+ the past two seasons), his lack of a solid track record in center (career -7 DRS, -5.5 UZR in CF) and better overall numbers in the corners (1 DRS/2.0 UZR in left -2 DRS, -.2 UZR in right), gives the Mets an incentive to look for another centerfield capable option. Especially given the defensive struggles of J.D. Davis over in left field (-11 DRS, -4.7 UZR).
The Padres also could use an outfield upgrade. Last season, their primary center fielder was Manuel Margot. Margot was awful offensively to say the least. He hit for a measly line of .234/.304/.387 with an 83 OPS+. It’s the second season in a row he has posted a sub-.700 OPS. Defensively though, he ranks among some of the best. Last year, he had +6 DRS, 5.8 UZR, and .7 dWAR. Across his career, he has had 2, 1+ dWAR seasons. Plus with Wil Myers in right field, the Padres could have one of the worst offensive outfields next season. But according to Dennis Lin, talks have seemed to have dialed down between the Bucs and Friars.
The rumors aren’t done yet. Heyman later tweeted that the aforementioned Padres, the Texas Rangers, and Arizona Diamondbacks could also be in on Marte. The Diamondbacks and Rangers seem to have become dark horses in the Marte sweepstakes.
Last season, the D-Backs saw breakout star Ketel Marte split time between center field and the keystone position. They don’t have a great answer at second base, so moving Ketel back to second full-time, while Starling takes over in center is a plausible outcome. Plus they do have some intriguing prospects that could interest the Bucs.
The Rangers primarily used Delino DeShields in center last season, but the Gold Glove level outfielder (6 DRS last season) played just 118 games, and was sent to the Indians earlier this off-season in the Corey Kluber trade. In his absence, slugger Joey Gallo saw a decent amount of time in center, and put up great numbers. In just 309.2 innings, Gallo had recorded +1 DRS, and a 1.6 UZR at the position. Currently, utility man Danny Santana projects to be the team’s center fielder. He had a breakout 2019, but his ability to handle center field leaves questions. He spent just 191 and two-thirds innings at the position, but had -3 DRS, and -3.5 UZR. Plus with it looking like Willie Calhoun and Shin-soo Choo to rotate in and out of left field and DH, right now the Rangers have one of the worst outfields defensively. Gallo is the only one to have put up better than average numbers.
Marte will definitely provide another bat whatever line-up he ends up in for the next two years. Last season, Marte slashed .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs, 25 stolen bases (his second straight 20/20 season), and a 119 wRC+. Out of all outfielders with at least 100 games played in CF last season, Marte ranked 3rd in wRC+, behind AL MVP and the best player of our life time Mike Trout and 2018 National League Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna.
Defensively, Marte has put up mixed results in his career. Last season, he was rated as one of the worst with the leather with -9 DRS, -7.6 UZR, 2 outs above average, and -0.7 dWAR. But as recently as 2018 was he putting up solid-to-above-average numbers at the position (+1 DRS, 3.2 UZR, 10 outs above average). Plus he was one of the best defensive left fielders in the game from 2013 to 2017 with +82 DRS and a 24 UZR at the position.
Marte is on an extremely team friendly contract. Next season, he is owed $11.5 million, making him one of the best bargains in terms of money a team can get. He has a team option for the 2021 season for $12.5 million, which if he is still putting up numbers like he has been, will surely be picked up. It’s not a surprise why many teams are after him, and why the Pirates would have a high asking price for him.