The Giants are a “key” team to watch as the Marlins market center fielder Starling Marte in the coming weeks, reports Craig Mish of the Miami Herald. Miami and Marte recently halted extension talks, and Mish now adds that the team balked at guaranteeing the 32-year-old Marte a fourth year on the contract.
Giants center fielders, buoyed by Steven Duggar’s recent hot streak, are hitting .262/.337/.420 on the season, but Duggar’s .398 average on balls in play and 31.8 percent strikeout rate point to some likely regression on the horizon. Left field has actually been a bigger issue, as the Giants have put together a collective .219/.295/.394 batting line from that position. Those struggles have come in large part due to Alex Dickerson, who could stand to lose some playing time in the event of an acquisition of Marte or another outfielder.
Marte, a free agent at season’s end, is earning $12.5MM this season and is still owed about $5MM of that sum through season’s end ($4.37MM from the point of the deadline). He’s hitting .288/.389/.447 with a career-best 11.8 percent walk rate, seven homers and 19 stolen bases through 245 plate appearances so far in 2021. He missed about five weeks with a fractured rib earlier in the season but has looked healthy and productive since returning at the end of May.
From a payroll vantage point, the Giants needn’t have any concerns acquiring Marte or nearly any other player. San Francisco has about $151MM on the books for 2021 and only about $158MM worth of luxury-tax obligations, leaving them miles from the $210MM barrier. This is also an ownership group that has, in the past, given the green light to payrolls in excess of $200MM, so there’s ample room to take on salary in any deal.
The Giants have a solid farm system, though when we’re talking about one rental player, a deep stock of minor league prospects isn’t required anyhow. Mish suggests that top outfield prospect Heliot Ramos, in particular, is of interest to the Marlins — but that’d be a rather steep price to pay for a Marte rental. The Marlins have some relievers who could pique the Giants’ interest, though; Giants president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi is no doubt quite familiar with former Dodgers Yimi Garcia and Dylan Floro from his days in the Los Angeles front office, for instance.
Miami is also deep in young starting pitching. For a Giants club that could see nearly all of its rotation reach free agency this winter — Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Johnny Cueto and Aaron Sanchez are all free agents — the Marlins and their impressive crop of young starting pitching seem like a strong trade partner.
Because of the lack of center fielders on the market, the Giants will have plenty of competition for Marte. He’s already been connected to the Yankees, the Phillies and the Astros, and there are several other contenders who could look for help in center field — or just the outfield in general. Marte is certainly a capable defender in center, but he’d fit nicely in a corner for a team looking to more generally upgrade its lineup. The Padres are reportedly looking into some upgrades in right field. The Mets have been linked to center field help throughout the season, and the White Sox have been hit hard with outfield injuries, too. The Giants are as strong a fit as anyone, but the competition will be significant.