Starling Marte would be a smart addition for 2020

Flying somewhat under the radar this weekend – understandable given the scope of the fallout from the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal – was a report by MLB insider Robert Murray that the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates have once again engaged in talks centered on Starling Marte, though he said no deal was imminent.

New Pirates GM Ben Cherington has been aggressively shopping Marte throughout the offseason, but were last connected to the Mets in late December. Reports at the time were that Brodie Van Wagenen was willing to part with Brandon Nimmo, but the Pirates were seeking more prospect-type players. This was seemingly a sticking point for an organization whose minor league depth has been ravaged by multiple buying trades.

Brian Joura ran a poll on this site in late December in which an overwhelming 80% of Mets360 readers indicated they would not want the Mets to acquire Marte because he won’t be worth what the asking price will be. To their credit, the Mets walked away when they felt Pittsburgh was asking for too much. Now that we are a month shy of spring training, perhaps the Pirates asking price for the 2016 All-Star and 2x Gold Glove Award winner.

Big additions being busts have made fans risk-averse, but given a fair exchange trading for the 31-year-old Marte is be a savvy move which could help put the Mets over the top in 2020 and back in the playoffs.

Also in late December, FanGraphs posted the 2020 ZiPS projections for the Mets roster. It sees the team essentially being what it was last year – in the mid-80s in wins. It is also fairly easy to identify three major areas where it would be easy for the Mets to improve – left field, second base (Robinson Cano projects for just 1.6 fWAR), and catcher (which Dalton Allison wrote about the other day).

In a world where a potential Marte acquisition doesn’t cost the Mets Nimmo or J.D. Davis, this helps the Mets immediately improve in left. Extending back to his days as a prospect Nimmo has defensively profiled as a corner outfielder. In his one healthy season in the bigs, he proved he has the bat to justify a move to the corner, and defensive metrics think it’s a good idea as well. Nimmo’s career UZR/150 in center is -9.9, while it is 3.2 in left. Marte is -1.2 in center for his career in UZR/150, a significant upgrade.

Nimmo sliding into left allows Davis to shift to third base, freeing up Jeff McNeil to play more second base and act as a Ben Zobrist-type utility man. Obviously that would coincide with less playing time for Cano. There are obviously other logistical concerns – such as managing potential playing time for Jed Lowrie, Yoenis Cespedes and Dominic Smith. But there is no counting on Lowrie, Cespedes, or even Cano being able to stay healthy for an entire season, so to not upgrade both your starting lineup and depth because of that is silly.

Naturally this is built on many assumptions – not the least of which is that the Mets would be okay with giving Cano a lesser role when healthy given his contract – but it makes the 2020 Mets a better and deeper team. And as Brian Joura said in an article last week – the Mets just need their bench to not suck, a problem solved with more good depth.

But what would Marte actually bring at age 31? ZiPS has not released its 2020 Pirates projections yet, but Steamer calls for a .287/.336/.468 slash line and 2.9 fWAR, which is essentially right in line with his career averages. If he is able to fall in line with those expectations, he is a worthwhile addition to the club, helping to improve the team by 1-1.5 wins, depending on how the rest of the dominoes fall. It might not sound like a lot, but as 2007 and 2008 proved – one game can be all the difference.

On the defensive side he lacks in range, but makes up for it with a great arm and steady glove, and his speed and baserunning ability is still a factor. He has stolen at least 25 bases in every season since 2013, with the exception of 2017 when he swiped 21 in 77 games. As much as I want to stick to qualitative analysis, there is no denying that Marte is an exciting player in a sport that sometimes lacks excitement.

If the Mets are serious about wanting to contend for the playoffs and even the World Series in 2020, they will pay more than lip service to a potential Marte trade. The Washington Nationals may have lost Anthony Rendon, but the Braves and Phillies have both taken big steps toward improving for this season, while the Mets have hung their hats on marginal improvements. While not a huge splash, bringing in Marte would be an impact addition which could catapult the team into legit division contenders.

The question is always about what the Pirates are going to ask for in return, which will likely include Andres Gimenez or Brett Baty as the headliners. If the Mets feel that Amed Rosario is for sure the long-term solution at shortstop, then by all means Gimenez as the headliner is not an unreasonable ask. As long as the rest of the deal passes muster the Mets should do it.

26 comments for “Starling Marte would be a smart addition for 2020

  1. Pete from NJ
    January 20, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Are we OK with a Nimmo or Davis plus Gimenez for a new right handed center fielder?

    I feel the team is giving fair value but is that talent enough for Pittsburgh to say yes. In my opinion, this should be the final offer. It’s fairly late in the off season so everything depends on how desperate the Pirates are to reduce payroll not to mention any counter offers are running around out there.

    Sometimes you just say no.

    • Herb G
      January 22, 2020 at 12:57 am

      I have been saying, since the beginning of the off season, that Marte would be a valuable addition to the Mets. Brodie should extend himself trying to make a deal with the Pirates. Moreover, he should seek to include Keone Kela in the deal. I won’t give up Nimmo to make this trade, but Davis, Gsellman, Ginenez, and a host of other prospects are fair game to be included in a package for Marte & Kela.

  2. TexasGusCC
    January 20, 2020 at 10:45 am

    If the Mets dealt Giminez, I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep. Anyone else in the top ten would bother me. Marte is a good player, but how much upside over Nimmo,? And, what’s the cost? Not that I disagree with you about Davis at third and McNeil at second base, but where do you stash your big payroll guys, Cespedes, Cano, Lowrie? Give them Gimenez and Lowrie, and let Cherimgton find a prospect for Lowrie.

  3. Chris F
    January 20, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Starling Marte would be just another classical example of Mets shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic under the guise making a trade for our best prospects for “win now” even though Starling Marte would not be a big upgrade. It is possible, however, if Pittsburgh just uses “Marte” in discussions that might be the deke to make the Mets think they are trading for Ketel Marte.

    Given what we saw with Beltran, that’s, ya know, not impossible to imagine.

    Talk to me about Jackie Bradley Jr and you have my attention.

    • MattyMets
      January 20, 2020 at 1:50 pm

      Chris F – BK and I had this discussion the other night and we both hold that the Mets traded away Scott Kashmir because we thought we were getting Carlos Zambrano, not Victor.

      • Chris F
        January 20, 2020 at 4:38 pm

        Ha!!!!!!!!!

  4. Bob P
    January 20, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    I’m really not interested in Marte and I definitely would not trade Nimmo for him. Even with his defense I expect that a healthy Nimmo will put up an equal or higher WAR than Marte at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention the difference in age between them.

  5. Pete from NJ
    January 20, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Looks like it’s a definite no.
    The real answer if I read correctly is that Nimmo’s production is equal to Marte’s. Lower cost too boot. Done.

    I hope the FO then feels the same way?

    • Mike Walczak
      January 20, 2020 at 12:43 pm

      I agree with you Pete. How much do we get above Nimmo playing center field ? probably, not much. And we have to give away assets for that, not worth it.

      The only way it may be worth it is if we trade assets that we really don’t need.

  6. Eric H Kench
    January 20, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Stupid move all around. I don’t think Nimmo is that bad in spite of what the stats say. I’ve seen worse. He now has a defensive specialist in Mariska backing him up.

  7. Rob
    January 20, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    I dont see it happening without an overpay since other teams can offer better package. That and solid centerfielder who can hit are scarcity like cathers.

  8. January 20, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    We think of Marte in center because that’s where he’s played the last two years. But before that he was like Nimmo, more of a corner than a center. Before 2018 he was average in center. In 2018 he was slightly above average and in 2019 he was solidly below average. He’s now 31 and that’s too old to think he’s going to get better on defense

  9. January 20, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Mets probably don’t need Marte, but if the Pigrats are willing to take just Gimenez, Lockett, Gsellman, or Lowrie and Flexen, some type of crappy return like that, sure, bring on Marte.
    Cespedes is going to be ready (if you have not seen the video from today, Mets fans, look it up), so he will be in LF, Marte in CF and Conforto in RF, two darn good backup OF in Nimmo and Marisnick. Davis is no outfielder and neither is Dom Smith, sorry.
    Those two along with the two back up OF’s make for a hell of a bench plus the backup catcher, whoever that is. I am hoping for it to be Russell Martin. Won’t be long before Cano is hurt, so, McNeil Squirrel moves over to 2B, and Davis will have to make it at 3B.
    Polar Bear at 1B and Rosario at SS, with Ramos at C, all makes for a scary offensive squad. Starters should be ok. If the BP doesn’t blow 27 saves like last yr, this is a 90-95 Win Team.
    Now, about the manager………..(?)

  10. TJ
    January 20, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    Well it sounds like I am in the majority on this. I just don’t see the fit here. Marte is a fine player, but he is a starting OF and the Mets have a bunch already. For me, I need to see what Cespedes is before adding an OF at the expense of porspects. The roster focus now should be on adding pitching and bench depth, with a focus still on strengthening the C depth. I don’t see spending propsects on a 31 year old OF…save them to compete for a Lindor or Betts when the time comes.

    • January 20, 2020 at 10:01 pm

      I don’t believe you’re in the minority. But if you are, I’m right there with you.

  11. Metsense
    January 20, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    Nimmo is a below average defensive centerfielder and JD Davis is a poor defensive leftfielder but when Marisnick enters the game and Nimmo moves to left then the outfield becomes an above average defensive outfield. Marte is not an improvement and he is on the other side of 30. Save the trade chips and prospects for real difference maker.

  12. Name
    January 20, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    Marte checks off an important box on Brodie’s wish list and that is he is a big fat fucking cheat. I’m surprised he’s not willing to give up his left arm for him.

    Also not that talked about is how Marisnick’s only good season was 2017 with the Astros…

    • José
      January 20, 2020 at 10:52 pm

      Name, you shouldn’t hold Marte’s fatness against him…

    • Chris F
      January 21, 2020 at 8:13 am

      A bunch of .500 – .600s OPS season except for ’17, when he was .800

      hmmmmmmmmm

      I believe BVW knew exactly what was happening in Houston, and felt the Mets could cheat similarly, and get away with it like the Astros. His plausible deniability about Beltran’s involvement looks intentional.

      I smell a rat.

      • TexasGusCC
        January 21, 2020 at 12:52 pm

        Applause!!!

        Precisely!

        Bravo Chris for being the adult in the room and dragging the truth out! I wondered that too when I tried to ask myself if I were interviewing Beltran four times, how I don’t ask that. And the answer I got is if it’s brought up, then legally it must be forbidden, and that would screw up the whole process. If it isn’t brought up, well then, no one said not to do it.

        To Brian’s point, it was a sham. Hence the lack of a comfortable second option.

      • Name
        January 21, 2020 at 4:26 pm

        I wonder if MLB would allow the Mets to void the Marisnick deal given what we know now as his stats go from bad to horrific once you exclude his 2017 season.

        He’s probably just a tad better offensively than Lagares and Hamilton, but maybe those 2 would only cost 1m rather than the 3.3m that Marisnick is making.

        • TexasGusCC
          January 21, 2020 at 5:53 pm

          Name, I wondered that too, but to allow that means to pretty much call Marisnick a cheater openly thus hurting his free agency, and the MBLPA would go on a complete flip-out. They didn’t give up much for Marisnick, but they didn’t trade for the 2017 version either. His production speaks for itself and he was acquired to be a defensive centerfielder to help Nimmo, and that’s all he is.

          Sitter question is, if Cespedes is down in Florida at the Mets Spring Complex working out and is healthy, how come the Mets are reopening talks concerning Starling Marte? Is Cespedes a goner, no matter what?

          • Remember1969
            January 21, 2020 at 9:37 pm

            That is a good call Gus – seems like the only way they would have any interest in Marte is if they have a side deal for Cespedes (Rangers??) in the works or if they completely believe he will not be physically able to play in 2020.

            Either way, I am not particularly in favor of a Marte trade, especially if the cost is anything more than a couple mid-level prospects (which it most likely would be). I believe Nimmo has more ceiling at this point.

  13. January 20, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    At the risk of repeating everyone, Davis doesn’t have the chops for third base, Nimmo is serviceable in center/strong shifting to left, and Marte is both aging and expensive in talent to a team without a hoard. #justsayno

    • TexasGusCC
      January 20, 2020 at 10:16 pm

      Michael, according to defensive metrics for infielders – OAA (Outs Above Average) – Davis grades out above average at third base. This metric takes range and difficulty of play into consideration and is run completely by Statcast.

  14. Eric H Kench
    January 22, 2020 at 9:39 am

    Marte will turn out to be another Mets disaster. There have been too many of those in their history.

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