January 24, 8:00pm: In comments to the media today, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen threw some cold water on the idea of a significant move to change the complexion of the team’s outfield mix, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo was among those to cover. But he didn’t exactly slam the door shut.
When queried about the team’s plans in the outfield, Van Wagenen says he doesn’t want to “disrupt” the existing “chemistry” and “culture where people buy into one another.” In the money quote that has drawn the most attention, Van Wagenen said he doesn’t “see a deal that’s going to disrupt that environment.”
At the same time, Van Wagenen says he’s open-minded to changing the cast. “If there’s an opportunity to continue to improve our roster, we’ll explore it,” he says, “but our aggressiveness right now is focused on getting ready for Spring Training with the players we have.” It’s a bit unclear just what it means to aggressively prepare to open camp. What does seem evident from this comment is that the Mets (quite understandably) prefer to focus public energy on the existing roster … but aren’t ruling out further moves.
10:00am: The Pirates’ talks involving Marte have “intensified,” tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, who lists the Padres and Mets as potential suitors, though it’s worth noting of course that the report comes just the morning after Lin indicated that talks with San Diego have “cooled.” Furthermore, SNY’s Andy Martino tweets that the Mets and Pirates are “pretty far apart” in their talks on Marte at the moment.
January 23: The Padres have their sights set on on a bona fide superstar, Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts, and they’ve also been connected to Pirates center fielder Starling Marte in trade rumors this offseason. At this point, though, it doesn’t appear a Marte deal will come together between the Padres and Pirates. The teams’ talks “have cooled, likely over the asking price,” Dennis Lin of The Athletic writes (subscription link).
Marte’s not the player Betts is (few are), but that’s not to say he isn’t plenty valuable in his own right. In fact, the 31-year-old has been one of the majors’ top center fielders throughout his career. Marte totaled at least 3.0 fWAR for the sixth time in his seven full seasons last year, posted his second straight 20-20 campaign (23 home runs, 25 stolen bases) and slashed .295/.342/.503 over 586 plate appearances.
Despite Marte’s perennial effectiveness, there is a case that the Pirates and new general manager Ben Cherington should sell him sooner than later. Marte’s under control for a maximum of just two more years – a pair of seasons that don’t figure to wind up as playoff-caliber efforts for the club. And though Marte’s control is dwindling, his affordability should only boost his trade value. He’s due a reasonable $11.5MM this year and could then make a similarly affordable $12.5MM by way of a club option in 2021; that’s if Marte’s employer doesn’t buy him out for $1MM instead, but the odds of that happening appear quite slim right now.
There are several teams that would make sense as Marte suitors, as Jeff Todd of MLBTR explored this week. The Padres, who have been busy in the outfield this winter (they’ve added Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham, subtracted Hunter Renfroe and would like to get rid of Wil Myers’ contract), are one of them. So far, however, it doesn’t look as if San Diego has made much progress in trying to pry Marte out of Pittsburgh.