The Mets are showing interest in acquiring Starling Marte, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Marte, who owns a career slash line of .287/.341/.452 across 8 seasons, is currently under contract with the Pirates for $11.5MM in 2020 with an exceedingly affordable club option for $12.5MM in 2021.
New Pirates GM Ben Cherington has barely had time to take his coat off, but given the executive’s stated preference to steer an organization through a ground-up rebuilding effort, resolving the future of his 31-year-old face of the franchise is likely high up on Cherington’s to-do list. That said, Marte’s contract, position, and production puts him among the Pirates’ most valuable trade chips. Therefore, Cherington is unlikely to execute a trade without a full organizational plan in place. The Pirates may prefer to tab a field manager before moving any of their key player. On the other hand, Cherington was said to have free rein when it comes to roster construction.
In theory, it makes sense to move Marte now while two years of team control remain (though the Pirates are particularly and understandably sensitive to the plight of their fanbase, who has seen more than their share of homegrown superstars leave town over the years). Still, the hiring of Cherington may point toward another Pittsburgh teardown, and a Marte trade is probably Cherington’s best, first opportunity to put his stamp on the organization. Cherington could aim to restock the farm with a handpicked package of prospects deemed as good fits for his development program.
If indeed Cherington does make Marte available, the Mets are an obvious fit. Given the dearth of centerfield options on the free agent market, it would be unsurprising for the Cubs, Reds, Padres, Diamondbacks, Phillies or Rangers to check on the price of a Marte acquisition as well. The potential demand bodes well for the Pirates, who are unlikely to emerge as contenders before Marte’s contract runs out. The NL Central may not have a consensus favorite at the moment, but the Reds continue to push for contention, and the Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs are also good best to land on the competitive end of the talent spectrum.
Nearly 62 percent of MLBTR readers recently suggested the Pirates would be better off trading 2019 breakout star Josh Bell, and given Bell’s youth relative to Marte, let’s assume most of you feel the same about him. If nothing else, we can probably agree that the Pirates should at least explore trading Marte. So where should Cherington look to procure the best package of prospects? This, of course, takes into consideration the urgency of the acquiring team as well as the value of their farm systems – as well as, potentially, the likelihood of consummating a deal. Understanding that I’ve certainly left a prime contender or two off this list, in your estimation, who should Cherington call first? We know the Mets are interested, but is there a better fit beyond New York?
To get yourself in a Pittsburgh state of mind before casting your vote, check out the Pirates’ Offseason Outlook from MLBTR’s Steve Adams.
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