There may be no bigger question for the Diamondbacks this winter than whether to trade Ketel Marte. A fourth-place finisher in 2019 NL MVP voting, Marte looked to be emerging as one of the game’s best position players. An average showing in the 2020 truncated schedule registered as a disappointment, but the switch-hitter returned to his 2019 form last year.
Marte hit .318/.377/.532, production that checked in 39 percentage points above the league average by measure of wRC+. Strains of both hamstrings limited him to just more than half of Arizona’s games, as he tallied 374 plate appearances over 90 contests. When healthy, Marte was dynamic, and his relative down year in 2020 now looks like an anomaly. In just under 1,200 plate appearances since the start of 2019, he’s a .318/.374/.543 hitter. His 137 wRC+ in that time ranks 11th among the 159 players with more than 1,000 trips to the plate.
That’s star-level offensive output, and Marte also offers up-the-middle defensive value. He didn’t acclimate well to a move to center field last year, but he’s rated as an average or better gloveman at second base. Some clubs may have reservations about his health after last year’s hamstring issues, but few players around the league can match Marte’s combination of bat-to-ball skills, raw power and athleticism.
In addition to his obvious talent, Marte’s incredibly affordable. He’ll play the 2022 season on a modest $8.4MM salary, and he’s controllable through 2024 via a pair of club options worth a combined $24MM. The Marlins are the only club known to have contacted the D-Backs about Marte this winter, but it stands to reason there are plenty of other teams with interest in a player of this caliber on such a team-friendly contract.
Whether the Diamondbacks would trade Marte is uncertain. They seemed to take him off the market quite early at last summer’s deadline. General manager Mike Hazen and assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye have both spoken in recent months about a desire to avoid a full rebuild while building the franchise around a few cornerstone players, and Marte no doubt qualifies. Both Hazen and Sawdaye have left the door open a bit, noting that they’re not in position to deem anyone completely untouchable coming off an NL-worst 52-110 season. Yet neither executive sounded enthused about the possibility, and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic wrote last month that it’d take a “monster package” for Arizona to move Marte.
Should the Diamondbacks be willing to entertain a Marte trade? They’re in a division with three of the game’s most talented rosters, and it’s hard to see a path to contention in 2022. The D-Backs could look into another contract extension, but a new Marte deal would be far costlier than the one on which he’s currently playing.
One could make a cogent argument that Arizona should pursue some form of organizational reboot, and no one on the roster would bring back as strong a return in trade as Marte. Yet there’s no certainty any prospect they get back will become a player anywhere near Marte’s caliber, and he should still be in high demand this summer or next offseason if the club hasn’t seen much near-term progress.
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