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Starling Marte Rumors
The Pirates have officially agreed to extend another outstanding young outfielder, locking up Starling Marte to a six-year, $31MM deal that includes two option years. The contract kicks in for the 2014 season, meaning that it will extend team control over the 25-year-old by three seasons.
Marte, 25, has just 1.070 years of service and was set to reach arbitration in 2016 and free agency in 2019. The Legacy Agency client had a breakout 2013 season. WIth a .280/.343/.441 triple-slash to go with 12 home runs and 41 stolen bases, along with strong baserunning and defensive marks, Marte's contributions were valued at 4.6 fWAR and 5.4 rWAR.
He fits in alongside the dynamic Andrew McCutchen to form one of the league's most exciting young outfield combinations — all the more so when one considers that prospect Gregory Polanco could soon join the mix. With McCutchen under control through 2018 on his own early-career extension, and Polanco yet to accrue a single day of MLB service, that group should anchor the club for years to come.
Marte receives a $2MM signing bonus, but his salary will be just $500K in 2014. He will then earn the following annual salaries: $1MM (2015), $3MM (2016), $5MM (2017), $7.5MM (2018), and $10MM (2019). The options could reach $12.5MM (2020) and $13.5MM (2021) with escalators, says Heyman, and come with a $2MM buyout attached in some manner. In sum, the $31MM guarantee covers six seasons, and the tab could increase to a $57MM deal over eight years in the likely event that both options are picked up.
The extension guarantees one of Marte's free agent-eligible seasons while giving the club options over two more. In that respect, at least, it looks to be a more favorable approach for the Pirates than that adopted by the Braves in their recent deal with shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who was guaranteed $58MM to sign on (like Marte) through the 2020 campaign as a player with between one and two years of service. While the value of the option years on Marte's deal will likely bring its total achievable price in line with the Simmons deal, the Bucs take on substantially less risk by structuring the last two seasons as options. And that is even before one considers that Marte could be a bigger arbitration earner than Simmons given his gaudy stolen base totals.
Of course, the Marte contract nearly doubles the value of the most recent, reasonably comparable outfielder contract (Denard Span's 2010 deal with the Twins). But that deal is surely outdated by this point, and Marte offers more pop and bigger upside than did Span at the time of his contract. In the end analysis, moreover, the precise details matter less in this situation than the overall results. By promising to pay Marte only through his age-29 season, but getting control over him through his age-31 campaign, the Bucs have ensured control over an exciting young player through (but not past) his prime years at a reasonable price.
Dominican radio commentator Orlando Mendez first reported the deal's length and value via Twitter. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the deal was finalized on Twitter. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported (via Twitter) that final agreement was close. MLB Network's Jim Duquette (Twitter link) reported that the deal included two option years, while Heyman tweeted that the deal would begin in 2014. The option value and annual breakdown was reported by Heyman (links to Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
MONDAY: At least one of the offers that Marte rejected was for six years, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That contract would have covered the 2015-2020 seasons, buying out two of Marte's free agent years.
SATURDAY: The Pirates are trying to sign outfielder Starling Marte to an extension, but he has declined at least two offers so far, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Nonetheless, Marte remains open to an extension.
Marte, who has one year and 70 days of service time, is currently eligible for arbitration following the 2015 season and eligible for free agency after 2018. He hit .280/.343/.441 while playing excellent defense in left field in his first full season in 2013. He received a bonus of just $85K upon signing as an amateur and has made salaries near the league minimum since being promoted. He is represented by the Legacy Agency.
The Pirates already have two outfielders, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, signed to long-term deals, but Tabata could be a trade candidate and may move to a bench role when the Pirates promote top prospect Gregory Polanco. According to MLBTR's Extension Tracker, Tabata is the most recent outfielder with between one and two years of service time to sign an extension, but Marte is the better player, and Tabata's six-year, $15MM contract was seen as extremely team-friendly from the day it was signed.
In a post from last May examining the possibility of an extension for Marte, we named Denard Span's five-year, $16.5MM deal as a possible precedent for a Marte extension, suggesting that a Marte extension beginning in 2014 might be a bit bigger than that. Based on changes in the extension market since then, though, a Marte extension would probably have to be bigger still. Recent contracts such as that of Julio Teheran (six years, $32.4MM), for example, have changed the market. Like Marte, Teheran had between one and two years of service at the time of his deal.
Starling Marte has arguably been the biggest key to the Pirates’ 21-16 start, and at 24, the outfielder looks like an emerging star. This weekend on Twitter, Pirates bloggers and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik discussed the merits of a possible contract extension for Marte. Given Marte’s skimpy big-league track record — he has just 341 career plate appearances — a long-term deal might seem a bit ambitious right now. But if Marte’s productivity continues, the Pirates will surely consider offering an extension at some point, and there may be a case for offering one sooner rather than later.
According to MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, there have been only three recent extensions for players with less than one year of service time: the Royals’ 2012 pact with Salvador Perez, and the Rays’ deals with Matt Moore in 2011 and Evan Longoria in 2008. All three contracts included three team options, and all gave their teams the rights to multiple free agent years.
There would be little point to the Pirates signing Marte to an extension without such team-friendly terms, since a good portion of Marte’s value will likely come from his superior defense and baserunning, which aren’t likely to win him huge arbitration salaries. Whether he’ll continue to post gaudy offensive numbers is less certain. Marte could still be very productive without big counting stats, but without them, he isn’t likely to make huge sums in arbitration.
Therefore, from the Pirates’ perspective, the point of an extension would be to buy the rights to some of Marte’s free agent years while ensuring that the prices of his arbitration-eligible seasons remain low. Any multi-year contract would set Marte for life, and Marte only received an $85K bonus as an amateur, so there would be reason for the Legacy Agency client to consider a deal, even at terms somewhat favorable to the Pirates.
Projecting what Marte might make in arbitration is just about impossible this early in his career. His current line of .336/.399/.517 is likely unsustainable, due to a .422 BABIP. But his speed and minor-league history (he batted .312 in his minor-league career) make him a good bet to continue hitting for average. Scouts also like his power potential. His Achilles heel, if he has one, will likely be his lack of plate discipline — he has just 15 walks in 341 career plate appearances. Even if he struggles as National League pitchers begin to adjust to his tendency to swing at pitches outside the zone, he should provide plenty of value with his defense, but his career could still range anywhere from “superstar” to “Jeff Francoeur.”
Nonetheless, an extension is a risk that the Pirates probably ought to consider. A speculative extension for a largely-unproven player has downside, as the Bucs are finding with their six-year, $15MM deal for now-fourth outfielder Jose Tabata. But it’s difficult for the Pirates to find stars through other means, so it behooves them to lock up their best young players early and cheaply. It’s no accident that the Royals and Rays, whose payrolls are typically somewhat similar to those of the Pirates, are the teams experimenting with early-career contracts for Perez, Longoria and Moore.
Perhaps the best precedent for a Marte extension, though, would be the Twins’ five-year, $16.5MM deal with Denard Span. Span doesn’t have Marte’s power, but like Marte, he generates plenty of value through defense and baserunning. The Twins signed Span before the 2010 season, when he had one year and 111 days of service time. A five-year deal that begins in 2014, when Marte himself will be between one and two years of service time, would put Marte on a similar track. Marte’s potential for big arbitration payouts might actually be somewhat higher than Span’s, due to Marte’s power, so a slightly higher dollar figure might be in order. Span’s contract has one option year; the Pirates could attempt to wrangle at least one additional option year from Marte to help compensate for the risk of signing him so early in his career.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Reds have been nearly unbeatable since losing their top player to injury and now have the best record in baseball at 64-41. Here are today's NL Central links after another Reds win…
- The Pirates considered and rejected a trade that would have sent two minor leaguers to Arizona for Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (on Twitter). The prospects — not Jameson Taillon or Luis Heredia — are at the mid-to-low levels of Pittsburgh's farm system.
- The Phillies asked the Pirates for Starling Marte, Brad Lincoln and more in possible trades for Hunter Pence, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports (on Twitter). The Phillies ultimately obtained Nate Schierholtz, minor league reliever Seth Rosin and minor league catcher/first baseman Tommy Joseph from the Giants for Pence.
- MLB terminated the contract between the Cardinals and right-handed pitching prospect Andres Serrano, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. The Cardinals had signed the Dominican for $750K, but he failed the age and identity sections of his investigation, according to Badler. Brian Walton of TheCardinalNation.com had the story last month.
The Indians think it's unlikely they'll trade right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, tweeted ESPN's Buster Olney this morning. Olney says a Choo trade would require the perfect offer, which fits with yesterday's report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the Tribe would need a good Major Leaguer with less than three years of service. Yesterday we heard that the Pirates, Rangers, and Reds have interest in Choo, but a deal with the Rangers isn't happening. The latest on Choo:
- The Phillies are interested in Choo, write Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The Phillies appear open to subtracting certain veterans but also adding to their core with players like Choo or Padres third baseman Chase Headley, in whom their interest had been previously reported.
- The Pirates are very reluctant to include 23-year-old outfield prospect Starling Marte in a Choo deal, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Marte is the 36th-best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America's midseason top 50.
- The Indians would be wiser to part with closer Chris Perez than Choo, writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince.
- Count the Dodgers among the interested teams, tweets Yahoo's Tim Brown.
- Choo badly wants to win, but considers the Indians like his family and has not and will not request a trade, he told reporters including MLB.com's Jordan Bastian yesterday. Regarding his contract status, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Choo saying, "That's why I have an agent. My agent and the Indians talk about it. I don't want to worry about it. It's a big headache. Scott [Boras] has done this a long time. He knows more than me." Choo is under team control through 2013, a season for which MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $7.6MM salary.
8:36pm: Rosenthal hears that the asking price for Choo is a good Major League player with less than three years of service time (Twitter link).
8:23pm: The Reds are also interested in Choo, according to Rosenthal (on Twitter). Choo would fit Cincinnati's desire for a left-handed bat and a leadoff hitter, but Rosenthal hears that the Indians are reluctant to move Choo.
5:29pm: A deal between the Rangers and Indians for Choo isn't happening, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).
4:17pm: The Rangers also have interest in Choo, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports report. Texas would prefer to add a left-handed hitter such as Choo to their lineup, but the Indians are reluctant to trade the right fielder. Cleveland would likely look for pitching in a trade, according to the FOX reporters.
11:04am: The Pirates are checking in on Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (on Twitter). The Pirates would likely have to part with 23-year-old outfielder Starling Marte to complete a trade for Choo, Biertempfel writes.
The Indians are likely to keep Choo, but they'll listen to trade offers for him, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported three days ago. The 30-year-old earns $4.9MM this year and will get a raise this offseason when he goes to arbitration for the third and final time. Choo has a .295/.382/.489 batting line with 12 home runs in 422 plate appearances this year.
Justin Upton's no-trade protection enables him to block trades to the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Indians. The Yankees have checked in on Upton, but there doesn't seem to be much traction between the two teams. Here's the latest on Upton, who collected three hits against the Reds last night…
- Agent Larry Reynolds told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that Upton hasn’t ruled out the possibility of accepting a trade to a team on his no-trade list (Twitter link). If nothing else, the no-trade list provides Upton and Reynolds with some potential leverage.
- The Pirates have stayed in contact with the Diamondbacks about Upton, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports. So far Pirates GM Neal Huntington has refused to part with outfield prospect Starling Marte or pitching prospect Jameson Taillon in trade talks, Morosi writes.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney spoke with more officials who are convinced the Diamondbacks will trade Upton.
- The Blue Jays are interested in Upton, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported today.
- The Pirates and Diamondbacks are having trouble matching up on a trade because Arizona is seeking a shortstop, tweets Olney.