During a conference call with reporters (including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald) to discuss the departure of president of baseball operations Michael Hill, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter noted that the club is planning to exercise its $12.5MM club option on outfielder Starling Marte for the 2021 season. The option contained a $1MM buyout.
Miami acquired Marte in a trade deadline blockbuster with the Diamondbacks that sent southpaw Caleb Smith, right-hander Humberto Mejia and minor league left-hander Julio Frias to Arizona. Given the substantial trade return, it always seemed pretty likely that the Marlins would pick up Marte’s option rather than see him only as a rental player for the rest of 2020.
Still, with all of the economic uncertainty around baseball, there are only a few contract options that could be seen as 100 percent sure things this winter. It is also noteworthy that the Marlins are the team making this decision, given their history of low payrolls. Marte immediately becomes their highest-paid player and a symbol that the rebuilding in Miami could be coming to an end, even though if it’s probably safe to assume that the Marlins won’t be going on a spending spree just yet.
Marte’s first month in a Marlins uniform had mixed results, as he only hit .245/.286/.415 in 112 regular-season plate appearances. The Fish did end up reaching the postseason, however, and Marte went 2-for-4 in the Marlins’ Game 1 victory over the Cubs in the wild card series. Unfortunately for Marte, he was also hit by a pitch and suffered a hand fracture, sidelining him for the rest of the postseason.
Assuming no long-term effects from the injured hand, Marte will be ready to roll as Miami’s everyday center fielder in 2021. The 32-year-old hit a combined .281/.340/.430 over 250 PA with the D’Backs and Marlins last season, and has been a consistently steady performer over his nine-year career, spent entirely in Pittsburgh prior to the 2020 campaign.
Marte’s original six-year, $31MM extension with the Pirates signed in 2014 contained club options for both 2020 and 2021, so with both options exercised, that contract will end up as an eight-year, $53MM pact. Marte forfeited roughly $2.4MM of that sum during his 80-game suspension for a positive PED test in 2017, and the shortened 2020 season reduced Marte’s salary from $11.5MM to a little under $4.26MM.