They’re throwing a Marte party in the desert. The Diamondbacks on Monday acquired center fielder Starling Marte from the Pirates in a blockbuster trade that saw shortstop prospect Liover Peguero, young righty Brennan Malone and $250K in international money go to Pittsburgh in return. Arizona now happens to have the top two Martes in the majors in Starling and Ketel Marte, the Diamondbacks’ primary center fielder from 2019 who broke out as a star and will now occupy second base most of the time.
For the Diamondbacks, an 85-win team from last year that’s trying to give the Dodgers a better fight in the NL West, the addition of Starling Marte is the latest win-now move in an offseason packed with them. The D-backs’ previous pickups came via the open market, where they signed left-hander Madison Bumgarner, right fielder Kole Calhoun, relievers Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra, and catcher Stephen Vogt.
There are concerns with Marte’s game, including iffy defensive metrics, a past PED suspension and a career-long aversion to drawing walks. Still, he’s unquestionably one of the most valuable center fielders in the sport. The 31-year-old has accounted for at least 3.0 fWAR in each of his six full seasons, and is coming off his second straight 20-20 effort. Marte posted a .295/.342/.503 line with 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases across in 586 trips to the plate.
Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention that Marte’s contract only makes him more appealing from Arizona’s standpoint. He’ll earn a fairly economical $11.5MM this year and could make $12.5MM next season if the Diamondbacks exercise his club option in lieu of a $1MM buyout. Assuming Marte continues his steady production in 2020, picking up that option will be a no-brainer for the team.
In Pittsburgh’s case, Marte’s age, waning control and the Pirates’ rebuilding status all combined to send him out of the Steel City after months of trade rumors. It was an understandable decision on new Pirates general manager Ben Cherington’s part to cash in the Marte chip, though there’s dissatisfaction in Pittsburgh that the team’s ultra-low payroll shrunk even more as a result of the deal. The Pirates could put at least some money back into their roster by finding a Marte replacement before the season, which is Cherington’s plan, but they’re unlikely to find a player of his caliber.
Regardless of how the Pirates’ payroll looks in the wake of Marte’s exit, the club did land a couple promising farmhands in Peguero and Malone. Both 19-year-olds are a ways away from major league opportunities, having not gotten past the low-A level yet, but they were seen as two of Arizona’s most intriguing prospects. Two months ago, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel ranked Peguero fifth in the Diamondbacks’ system, comparing him to former D-back Jean Segura. The flamethrowing Malone checked in at No. 10 on the list, meanwhile, with Longenhagen and McDaniel writing that the 33rd overall pick from last year’s draft has “a mid-rotation starter look.”
Thanks to the youth of Peguero and Malone, we’ll have to wait for a while to see how this trade pans out. At first glance, though, how do you like it for both teams? Weigh in below …
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