Pittsburgh Pirates: My Thoughts On The Starling Marte Trade

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With the offical confirmation that former Pittsburgh Pirates’ Outfielder Starling Marte has been sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks, what do I think about this trade from a fan’s perspective?

Starling Marte has officially been traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates. While it had long been rumored that the New York Mets and San Diego Padres were the ones that were in the lead in the sweepstakes for the outfielder, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a surprise final push, and ended up landing Marte.

Marte will be the D-Backs’ primary center fielder, with the other (Ketel) Marte moving to second base full time. Last season, Starling batted for a strong .295/.342/.503, with 23 home runs to go with 25 stolen bases. Only Mike Trout (180) and Ronald Acuna (126) had a higher wRC+ than Marte (119) while playing at least 100 games in center field.

While Marte had an awful season defensively in 2019 (-9 DRS, -7.6 UZR), he was a solid-to-above-average center field defender in 2018. He had 3.2 UZR, and ranked 11th in outs above average. Combine that with two very affordable years of control ($11.5 million in ‘20, $12.5 million in ‘21), Marte seemed to be in line to reel in a nice prospect return for the Bucs.

So what did the Pirates receive back? Two players: 19-year-old shortstop Liover Peguero, and 19-year-old pitcher Brennan Malone. I first want to go over Malone. The right hander is a recent draftee by the Diamondbacks, having been selected in the first round and 33rd overall out of IGM Academy. Malone’s first professional innings haven’t gone as well as one would have hoped. Granted it is an 8 inning sample size, Malone gave up 4 earned runs on 5 walks and 4 hits. Malone was given a 65 grade for his fastball, and 60 grade for his slider, while his curveball and change were given 50 overall grades each.

Peguero had a pretty good second professional season. In 249 plate appearances (156 in rookie ball, 93 in Low-A), the shortstop had a .326/.382/.485 line to go with 5 home runs and 11 stolen bases. MLB.com gave him grades of 55 for his hit, arm and fielding tool, while giving him a 60 for his running ability. The only tool he is lacking in is power, which graded out at a 45. But if his .485 slugging in the low levels of the minors indicates anything, he has the ability to improve in that category of his game.

So what do I think of this return? I think it’s pretty disappointing. While they could have made a lot worse of a deal, this is far from what I was expecting. Marte was worth at least a top 100 prospect. Neither Peguero or Malone are in the top 100.

Another thing that makes this disappointing is the type of players the Pirates received. Now, sure, getting Malone in this deal isn’t bad. He is a former first round pick who was ranked number 9 by MLB Pipeline in a deep farm system. He shouldn’t have been the headliner going back to the Pirates, but the other player made me scratch my head. I do not understand the inclusion of Peguero in this deal.

The Pirates currently have a myriad of young, talented, and shortstop/second base capable players in their organization. It’s the deepest position on the team. Last season, rookie Kevin Newman, and Adam Frazier were the primary shortstop and second baseman. While on paper, those seem like good long term options for middle infield, many other middle infielders already in their system are going to force position changes, and players to take on utility roles.

Cole Tucker will make his presence known next season. Oneil Cruz could be in the Majors by 2021. That’s also not considering if Ji-Hwan Bae will continue to develop like he has so far.

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The deal could be a lot worse. I am interested to see what Malone can do, since he was a first round pick, and Peguero did do good in his sophomore season. But the Pirates didn’t really get that impactful piece in this trade. It would not have been far-fetched for the Pirates to receive one of Corbin Caroll (89th best prospect in the MLB), or Daulton Varsho (76th best prospect in the MLB) in return for the former all-star. But who knows, maybe (and hopefully) I’ll be completley wrong. I’m pretty sure most of us can say we were wrong when Andrew McCutchen was traded to the Giants.