The Diamondbacks and Ketel Marte are discussing the possibility of a contract extension, per Robert Murray of FanSided (via Twitter). No deal is imminent, though Jon Heyman of the MLB Network reports that the two sides are discussing adding three years of team control to his current contract at a total value of roughly $75MM.
Marte is already under contract for the below-market sum of $8.4MM for 2022, with the Dbacks holding team options for 2023 and 2024 at $11MM and $13MM, respectively. Obviously, those numbers come in far shy the $25MMper annum he would theoretically earn in his age 31-33 seasons under the terms reported by Heyman. And yet, it’s still a number that could be considered a discount, given Marte’s proven ceiling.
Marte has been floated as a potential trade candidate for much of the offseason, but his value has been somewhat difficult to peg because he’s so eminently affordable for the next three campaigns thanks to the extension he signed in March 2018. At the time that he signed the deal, Marte had not yet entered his arbitration seasons, and he’d already been dealt once in what turned out to be one of the more interesting swaps of the past decade. In the deal, Arizona acquired righty Taijuan Walker with the 23-year-old Marte in exchange for an unproven Mitch Haniger, a post-breakout Jean Segura, and southpaw Zac Curtis. Notably, it was one of the very first moves of GM Mike Hazen’s tenure in Arizona.
Though Marte was a high-end prospect, Walker was viewed as the real get at the time. Marte had yet to fully establish himself over parts of two seasons with the Mariners. His extension, then, came after just one additional year with the Diamondbacks, one in which the switch-hitter managed only 255 plate appearances. Marte’s career triple-slash line was just .265/.319/.361 (84 wRC+) with eight homers and 22 steals over his first 968 major league PAs. And yet, Hazen didn’t blink in locking him up for the next seven years.
Hazen’s prescience paid off as Marte broke out in a big way during the 2019 season, finishing fourth in MVP voting. Marte absolutely leveled up to a .329/.389/.592 line over 628 plate appearances, chipping in 36 doubles, nine triples, and 32 home runs, good for 6.9 rWAR/7.0 fWAR. After taking a step back in 2020, Marte posted a reasonable facsimile of his breakout campaign last year with a 139 wRC+, but he was only able to stay on the field for 90 games.
An extension now would be an interesting gambit for the Diamondbacks, considering the injuries that have followed Marte throughout his career. And while he’s a multi-positional standout – and somewhat of an oddity in that he has more-or-less split his career playing time between second base, shortstop, and centerfield – his glovework has largely earned subpar marks everywhere on the diamond except the keystone.
Add to the total picture Marte’s tremendous, if surprising offensive ceiling, and he’s not a player that takes easily to projections. One could argue that the Diamondbacks would be better off waiting on extending Marte to see if he can produce another full season like 2019, given that he’s already under team control for three more seasons. By the time a new extension would kick in, Marte would be on the other side of his prime.
Perhaps they want to put an end to any trade rumblings and commit to Marte as a centerpiece of their offense for the next half decade. Hazen’s been right about Marte twice before, so the pair are probably due the benefit of the doubt.
Besides, Arizona’s future payroll is totally clear. They have nobody currently on the books for after the 2024 season, when Marte’s current contract runs out.
When he’s right, Marte brings a plus ability to put the ball in play, above-average power, above-average speed, and enough positional versatility to be an asset, at least in a game-to-game basis. It’s easy to understand why the Diamondbacks would want him at the forefront of their future endeavors.