The Arizona Diamondbacks increased their playoff chances Monday with the acquisition of veteran outfielder Starling Marte in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. While Arizona probably isn’t a playoff favorite even after the move, they added another solid veteran to a group that won 85 games last season.
In an era where teams are routinely stripping themselves down, the Diamondbacks under general manager Mike Hazen have taken on the difficult task of restocking its minor league system while also trying to remain competitive at the big league level. It is a refreshing take at a time where many teams don’t seem interested in winning. However, it remains to be seen if it will work.
Arizona entered the offseason in search of a center fielder who would allow them the ability to limit some of the wear and tear on utility man Ketel Marte, who enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2019 before a stress-reaction in his back ended his season early.
Starling Marte fits that need well.
In Pittsburgh, Marte totaled 6.7 fWAR over the last two seasons while hitting at least 20 homers in each; he posted a 112 wRC+ in 2018 and a 119 wRC+ last season. Additionally he is a strength on the bases, totaling 58 stolen bases over the last two seasons.
He took a step back in both UZR and DRS in 2019 but Statcast had him at a respectable two Outs Above Average in 2019. He takes good routes to the ball and improved his sprint speed slightly last season finishing in the top 8% of the league. At 31, Tarling is likely on the wrong side of the curve from an age standpoint but there is little reason to think that he won’t be able to stick in center for this season.
The Diamondbacks will pay Marte $10 million for the 2020 season after the Pirates cover $1.5 million of his salary in the deal. His affordable $12.5 million team option for 2021 allows them some security if the team is in contention and would make Marte an appealing trade candidate at the deadline should things not work out.
The cost wasn’t insignificant, though, as Arizona sent a pair of high-ceiling prospects in shortstop Liover Peguero and right-hander Brennon Malone to Pittsburgh. Both ranked among Arizona’s Top 10 prospects according to Baseball America. Peguero was likely facing a position switch had he stayed with Arizona but could slot into the Pirates’ shortstop of the future.
Malone was seen by many as a first round talent who could eventually develop into a mid-rotation starter with a good fastball/slider combination. However, it was a chance that the Diamondbacks could afford thanks to the depth of their minor league system which is largely the result of their recent roster retooling.
It’s hard to think of this move as anything but a win for Arizona. Marte fits seamlessly into the team’s outfield picture and is another quality addition to a team that was already competitive.
For the Pirates, it is a sign of what we were already expecting. Pittsburgh made wholesale changes to its front office this offseason and new general manager Ben Cherington is expected to retool the team’s roster. Trading Marte was the first domino to fall.