It’s that time of the year again. Trade season is about to heat up across MLB over the next month and change. This year, the trade deadline is 4pm eastern on July 30. As we approach that date, we’ll profile a number of players the Yankees should have their crosshairs on in discussions with other ballclubs. Today’s profile: Marlins’ center fielder Starling Marte.
Simply put, the Yankees need to add a center fielder. Aaron Hicks is out for the season and 37 year-old Brett Gardner simply isn’t a viable option. He’s been better of late, but it’s too much to ask of him to play there every day. Estevan Florial isn’t ready. And running out Aaron Judge in center isn’t ideal, either. So with the Marlins out of contention (29-39) and Marte in the final year of his contract, this sure looks like a match made in heaven.
Background & Performance
Marte, 32 years-old, hails from the Dominican Republic and is in his 10th season in the major leagues. He’s carved out a pretty good big league career in spite of signing with the Pirates for just $85,000 as an international amateur free agent back in 2007.
The righty/righty center fielder debuted for Pittsburgh in 2012 and remained there through 2019 before an offseason trade sent him to Arizona. While in the Steel City, Marte batted .287/.341/.452 (116 wRC+), stole 239 bases, and accumulated 24.0 fWAR in 953 games. However, his numbers were a tad better prior to serving an 80-game suspension in 2017 under the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Not markedly better, though:
- 2012 – 2016: .289/.345/.447, 120 wRC+
- 2017 – 2019: .284/.334/.458, 109 wRC+
He really only exhibited a downturn in that 2017 season (91 wRC+), but otherwise, Marte was remarkably consistent in Pittsburgh before a trade to the Diamondbacks in January 2020.
The trade was far from the biggest upheaval in Marte’s life last year, though. He tragically lost his wife to a heart attack while waiting for surgery on a broken ankle that May. Just horrible. I don’t know how he went on the play last season, but he did. Perhaps the delayed start to the season made it a bit easier for him to take the time he needed away from the field with his family (he has three kids).
Marte got off to a hot start once the season began in 2020. He hit .311/.384/.443 (123 wRC+) before Arizona sent him to the upstart Marlins. Marte struggled post-trade (.245/.286/.415, 92 wRC+), but has rebounded this year around a rib fracture. To date, Marte owns a .331/.429/.534 (170 wRC+) batting line, has five homers, and has swiped 8 bags.
Defensively, Marte didn’t become a full-time center fielder until 2018 (the first year without Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh). He primarily played left, though he did spend some time in center before. Marte grades out very well in center field per Statcast, at +17 outs above average since 2018. He’s at +3 this season.
As mentioned, Marte spent time on the injured list this season with a rib fracture. He was absent after playing on April 18th until returning on May 28th.
Marte’s injury history isn’t too bad otherwise. He dealt with a sprained wrist and and abdomen contusion in 2019, missing 29 days combined. In 2018, he spent the minimum 10 days on the injured list with an oblique strain. His only other injured list stints ocurred in 2016 (back tightness) and 2013 (finger).
Club options have lengthened Marte’s original six-year, $31 million extension with the Pirates to eight years and $53 million, with this year being the last of the deal. The Marlins picked up his $12.5 million club option for the 2021 campaign, and based on CBA rules, that’s also his luxury tax figure for the year. Obviously, the luxury tax observant Yankees will take that into account in any potential deal.
What would a trade look like?
Marte has more than half of the $12.5 million still coming to him, and with the Yankees having only a couple million in wiggle room under the first tax threshold (per Cot’s), the Bombers would undoubtedly ask for Miami to eat most, if not all, of his salary. Pretty incredible: the financial powerhouse New York Yankees asking the lowly Miami Marlins to take on money. Sigh.
As such, the Yankees will need to send better prospects down south if they expect the Marlins to pay down Marte’s deal. Just like they did with Texas and Rougned Odor. Now, let’s talk trade comps.
I’ll start with last year’s deal for Marte, which sorta was a rental, only because Miami could have bought him out for $1 million last winter. Here’s what Miami sent to Arizona:
- Caleb Smith through 2023
- Humberto Mejía through at least 2026
- Prospect Julio Frias
Smith misses a lot of bats, but has had middling success. Mejía was on the back-end of the Marlins’ top-30 prospect list last season and is currently in Triple-A. Frias, then 22, spent 2019 in short-season A-ball and hadn’t been on any prospect lists. Not a great return!
Let’s also look to another recent notable rental: the deal that sent Nick Castellanos from Detroit to the Cubs in 2019 for right-handed pitching prospects Paul Richan and Alex Lange. Richan is a command-over-stuff righty who’s not a top prospect. Lange was the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2017, but had seen his stock fall and moved to a relief role. Another meh return.
The problem here, again, is that a Yankees trade for Marte probably won’t look remotely like these two. Not if they’re going to ask Miami to kick in money to cover what’s left on Marte’s deal. Ugh. Anyway, let me put my proposal out there. But first, an evergreen reminder:
1. Your trade proposal sucks.— River Ave. Blues (@RiverAveBlues) July 31, 2017
Here goes nothing: Yoendrys Gomez, Anthony Seigler, and Beck Way for Marte and cash. Do we have a deal, Baseball Trade Values?
Obviously, Marte would be a great fit and fill a glaring need. Not just because the Yankees have an opening in center field, but also because the Yankees sorely need an injection of life into the offense. Marte offers both without a long-term commitment.