Starling Marte is the clear top option in this winter’s free agent center field class. Unsurprisingly, early interest seems to be robust, as Jon Heyman of the MLB Network reports (Twitter links) that both the Marlins and Mets have expressed interest in the 33-year-old. Those NL East clubs join the Yankees and division-rival Phillies as known entrants in his market. There are no doubt other clubs who have or will express interest in Marte, who’s coming off a stellar .308/.381/.456 showing between Miami and the A’s.
Miami’s early interest is eyebrow-raising, since he and the Marlins couldn’t agree to terms during midseason extension negotiations this summer. Reports suggested the Fish balked at offering a fourth guaranteed year a few months back, and going to that length again figures to be necessary to land Marte’s services now that he can field offers from all 30 clubs. It’s not as if his stock tanked after the deal, as Marte continued to be an offensive force (.312/.355/.462 with 25 stolen bases in just 56 games) for Oakland down the stretch. MLBTR projects he’ll ultimately land a four-year deal worth $80MM, a figure that would come in quite a bit higher than the money Marte reportedly targeted in original extension talks.
The Mets, meanwhile, are still trying to finalize the structure of their front office. That could pose a challenge for them in making any impactful moves early in the winter, but whomever the Mets hire to lead baseball operations is expected to look for some form of outfield help. Michael Conforto has already rejected New York’s qualifying offer, and his potential departure would leave a vacancy in the grass in Flushing. A Marte pursuit would be one way to replace Conforto, with current center fielder Brandon Nimmo probably sliding over to right field were a deal to get done.
Some news on a few more free agents:
- Nick Castellanos has already rejected the Reds’ qualifying offer, little more than a formality after he opted out of the remaining two years on his contract. The 29-year-old wouldn’t close the door on a return to Cincinnati, though, telling reporters (including Adam Baum of the Cincinnati Enquirer) he’d listen to any offers from the Reds. “Of course I would. Why wouldn’t I,” Castellanos asked rhetorically. “I feel like there’s still a lot of valuable pieces that are very good to win with. Jonathan India … Jesse Winker is coming into his own, figuring out who he is, figuring out what kind of father he wants to be, he’s doing a great job at that. Joey Votto just reinvented himself. We still have pitching. We have pieces. Why wouldn’t I entertain it?” Regardless of Castellanos’ amenability, a Reds’ return seems highly unlikely. Cincinnati has kicked off the offseason by parting ways with two veteran contributors (Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley) for little more than financial relief, and general manager Nick Krall has spoken of “(aligning) our payroll to our resources.” It’d be nothing short of shocking if Cincinnati then pivoted to make a serious run at Castellanos, whom MLBTR projects to sign for $115MM over five years.
- California natives Michael Lorenzen and Mark Canha are both drawing interest from teams on the West Coast, reports Robert Murray of FanSided (Twitter link). Interestingly, Murray hears that at least some teams are willing to consider Lorenzen as a starting pitcher, aligning with the 29-year-old’s hopes for a rotation job. Lorenzen broke into the majors as a starter, but he’s started just five of his 268 appearances with the Reds since the beginning of the 2016 campaign. He’s had success in a multi-inning relief capacity, though, and Lorenz’s five-pitch repertoire could help him navigate an order multiple times. Canha, who has spent his entire major league career with his hometown A’s, hits the open market on the heels of four straight above-average offensive seasons, by measure of wRC+. Entering his age-33 season, the productive outfielder will probably be limited to short-term deals, which could make him a target of low and high payroll clubs alike.