Phillies: Starling Marte a long-term trade option?
The Phillies could use another big bat, and Starling Marte would be an intriguing option.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is expected to pursue many avenues this summer as he prepares his club for a pennant run. A slew of injuries has made his job even harder, but what’s made it even more difficult is the suspension of Odubel Herrera following an alleged domestic violence incident.
With a big hole in center field, the Phillies hoped Andrew McCutchen could fill that role, but an ACL injury has taken him out of the rotation. Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley have also been injured, forcing Scott Kingery into learning a new position, one he’s adapted well in.
However, the Phillies have a major issue at third base with Maikel Franco hitting below .170 since May 1. There isn’t a backup plan either with Phillies third basemen having a league-worst -1.4 WAR.
As for trade options at third base, there aren’t many down and out teams with quality third basemen on decent deals. Eduardo Escobar is owed more than $14 million over two years and Anthony Rendon would be an expensive rental.
If the Phillies want to improve their offense, their only option looks to be moving Kingery to third and adding a center fielder.
Pirates center fielder Starling Marte could be not only a rental, but potentially a long-term option in center field for Philadelphia.
Marte is on the final guaranteed year of his contract with two team options remaining; a $11.5 million option for 2020 and a $12.5 million option for 2021. If the Phillies were to move on from Marte after this year it would only cost them $2 million to buy out his deal.
As a smaller market it’s not likely Pittsburgh takes on those option years. Sitting in last place in a tough division, the Pirates could be motivated to sell an expensive contract.
By trading Marte the Pirates would save either the buyout money or the expensive option year and add a couple of prospects.
Philadelphia would likely ship a low-end top-10 prospect and another player or two. Perhaps either Enyel De Los Santos or Ranger Suarez intrigues Pittsburgh as they build their young rotation.
The Phillies could always keep a year or two of Marte’s contract to cover McCutchen not being healthy, Herrera’s suspension, or prospects not being ready to contribute consistently.
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After sitting out 80 games due to a PED suspension, Marte has continued to hit for Pittsburgh with 11 home runs and a .283 batting average. His K/BB ratio of 5:1 isn’t fantastic, but he gets on-base at a .325 clip and won back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2015-16.
Since 2014 Marte has had no more than four errors in a season playing center field.
Marte would slot atop the Phillies lineup in any of the top three spots. This year he’s primarily hitting second, but he’s been a leadoff man before. Manager Gabe Kapler likes a leadoff hitter who gets on base and sees a lot of pitches, something Marte doesn’t always do.
According to Fox Sports, Marte sees about 3.57 pitches per plate appearance, which would rank seventh among Phillies with at least 100 at-bats. Marte could slot into the two-hole ahead of Jean Segura or Bryce Harper.
This move not only solidifies center field, but upgrades third base by replacing Franco with Kingery.
No trade is a slam dunk, but adding Marte makes a lot of sense for Philadelphia as they build towards a championship run. Marte adds a quality bat, defense, and optionality with his contract, making him one of the best options available for Klentak.