Over past two seasons, Starling Marte has had the tenth highest fWAR (6.7) among all MLB center fielders.
At age 31, he is still an all-around solid player. His speed remains close to elite (29.0 ft/sec) and his arm is as still strong as ever (Marte’s eight outfield assists were third among CF in 2019). Although his overall defense wasn’t as stellar as it’s been over the past few seasons, Marte did have his highest wRC+ (119) since 2016.
Marte is what he is, a three to four win player that would help any team. He is not a superstar. He is not going to be the best player on a championship team. That said, he is the type of player that could take a fringe contender over the hump. If Mookie Betts is indeed the big fish outfield trade chip this offseason, Marte would definitely be a great consolation prize. Pair his production with the remainder of his contract ($11.5 million in 2020 with a $12.5 million club option in 2021) and it’s easy to see why Marte is arguably the Pirates’ most valuable trade asset.
If Ben Cherington chooses the route of a total rebuild, plenty of clubs will be lining up to trade for Marte’s services. It’s almost impossible to speculate on the type of return Marte would bring back, but we can speculate on which clubs may be interested. Below is a list of teams who 1.) need an outfielder, 2.) are decently close to contending, and 3.) have the prospects or young controllable players to bring back a favorable return.
New York Mets
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported today that the Mets have interest in Marte.
Mets have interest in Starling Marte. Fits what they seek — strong defender in CF, righthanded hitter. Pirates still working on manager. Uncertain if he’ll be dealt. Cubs, Reds, Padres among others who will look at center fielders.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 23, 2019
This does make sense. The Mets had awful production from their center fielders in 2019. As it currently stands, the Mets’ outfield has Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and JD Davis. Who knows when Yoenis Cespedes will return? The addition of Marte would give the Mets a true center fielder, allow Conforto and Nimmo to man the corner spots, and let McNeil be used in a super utility role.
The big question with the Mets is whether or not they have enough assets to pull this off. According to MLB Pipeline, they have three top 100 prospects, none ranked higher than 80. The farm system as a whole is decent, but not great.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays on the other hand have a stacked farm system, thanks in little part to the Pirates. In terms of their outfield situation, Kevin Kiermaier remains solid in center fielder while Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows lock down the corner spots. If Marte were dealt to the Rays, he would likely shift back to left field. Pham could move right field and Austin Meadows, who struggled defensively last season, could be the DH/fourth outfielder.
Marte’s contract situation would no doubt be appealing as well. If the Rays have any interest in Marte, they certainly have the prospect capitol to get a deal done.
Chicago White Sox
With the addition of Yasmani Grandal earlier this week, the White Sox are officially. . .wait for it. . . GOING FOR IT. They still have a loaded farm system and many young players. Last season their outfield production was the worst in baseball according to fWAR. Marte is a logical fit.
San Diego Padres
The Padres are basically the National League version of the White Sox. The farm is loaded with young talent yet this team wants to win now. Like the White Sox, the Padres need outfield help. Manuel Margot isn’t the CF the Padres thought he would be. Marte would be a major upgrade.
Imagine an outfield of Ronald Acuna, Ender Inciarte, and Marte. This would be a very good if not elite defensive outfield. The Braves have tons of young talent. A deal could be made.
Other teams with an outfield need
David Dahl is not a true center fielder, especially at the spacious Coors Field. The Rockies don’t necessarily need Marte, but if they choose to get creative, he would be nice add.
The Indians have needed outfield help for at least two years now. Like the Pirates, the Indians aren’t especially keen on spending money. If they want to make one last run before the inevitable trade of Francisco Lindor, Marte would be a great and affordable add.
More than likely, Andrew McCutchen will not be ready for the start of 2020 season due to a torn ACL last June. After his injury, the Phillies shuffled around various stop gap players to fill in between Bryce Harper and Scott Kingery and never really found one player to seize the job. Marte would fill that hole until McCutchen’s return while simultaneously making for one of the best outfields in baseball.