Eligible to return from his 80-game PED suspension July 18, Pirates outfielder Starling Marte began a High-A rehab assignment Sunday. When Marte does rejoin the Bucs, he’ll do so as a left fielder, manager Clint Hurdle told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other reporters. Marte has spent the majority of his career in left since debuting in 2012, but thanks to both his excellent work there and Andrew McCutchen’s decline in center field, the Pirates moved the former to center and the latter to right in the offseason (Gregory Polanco shifted from right to left).
Now, with McCutchen enjoying a bounce-back season at the plate, Pittsburgh will keep its longtime face of the franchise in the outfield’s most important position. McCutchen is in the midst of his second straight poor year in center, though, as he posted minus-28 defensive runs saved and a minus-18.7 Ultimate Zone Rating in 2016 and already has a minus-15 DRS and a minus 18.5 UZR/150 this season. But general manager Neal Huntington has seen improvement, noting: “His metrics are better this year. Part of that … is we’ve pushed him back a little bit to play to his strengths and to his confidence, playing gap to gap.”
- It’s possible Marte will head back to center if the Pirates trade McCutchen before this month’s deadline, and Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observes that the value of both McCutchen and right-hander Gerrit Cole is increasing. Rival evaluators have pointed to Texas as a fit for the two, with one evaluator suggesting that the Rangers would have to give up outfielder Leody Taveras or left-hander Yohander Mendez just for McCutchen, according to Brink. Both Taveras (No. 45) and Mendez (No. 46) rank among MLB Pipeline’s top 50 prospects.
- Sticking with the McCutchen theme, Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.com opines that the in-state rival Phillies should pursue a deal for the 30-year-old. Given that the Phillies have the majors’ worst record (27-53), McCutchen wouldn’t help them vie for a playoff berth this year, but Lawrence argues that he’d still be a worthwhile addition. Philadelphia could acquire McCutchen with the goal of extending him past next season, when his team control expires. If they fail to reach a multiyear agreement by next summer and the Phillies aren’t in the playoff hunt, they’d potentially be able to flip McCutchen, contends Lawrence.