After dealing Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara this offseason, the Texas Rangers have room for another outfielder. Is Starling Marte a trade option?
The Texas Rangers entered the offseason with a bit of an overstock of outfielders on their big league roster. Now, following trades that sent Nomar Mazara to the White Sox and Delino DeShields to the Indians, there’s a case to be made that Texas is in the market for an outfielder. Particularly one who can be an impact player. That need for the organization plus the Pittsburgh Pirates reported shopping of former Gold Glover Starling Marte means there’s a natural fit for trade rumors.
All offseason the Rangers have been bantered about as a club that would make sense for a Starling Marte trade. Now, Jon Heyman of MLB Network has given us some confirmation that Texas has reached out to the Pirates about the 31-year old. Heyman goes on to mention a few other clubs by name including the Mets, who have long been connected to Marte, the Padres, and the D-Backs.
For Texas, after the departure of DeShields in the Corey Kluber trade, there’s a lack of a true center fielder on the Major League roster. Danny Santana is currently the expected starter in center with current roster construction but Santana has limited experience at the position and poor defensive ratings. Scott Heineman is the current fourth outfielder and he has some experience in center but he lacks the bat to be an everyday player at this point. Marte could potentially fill that void, although with plenty of defensive question marks of his own.
Both of Marte’s Gold Gloves came while he was a full-time left fielder and his jump to center is really just two seasons old. His first full season in center, Marte posted solid defensive numbers with a 4.4 UZR/150 per FanGraphs despite below average range. However, he regressed heavily in 2019 and saw his UZR/150 rating drop down to -8.8, well below average. That raises some legitimate concerns and also some questions about the Rangers interest. Where would Marte fit in an outfield that already features one below average defensive player in Willie Calhoun?
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If the Texas Rangers feel that Marte’s 2019 defensive showing was more the product of a singular down year and not his long-term performance, then his offensive fit would be superb. He’s coming off one of his best offensive seasons hitting .295 in 132 games for the Pirates. His .845 OPS is stellar for what we assume would be a center fielder and his 23 home runs would add some much needed pop to the lineup. His bat carried him to a 3.0 fWAR, the second consecutive season he’s hit that mark or higher. Barring a 2017 when he dealt with some injury, Marte has been a 3.0 WAR or higher player every season in the bigs and crossed the 4.0 WAR mark twice. A right-handed bat, Marte’s ability to fit into the upper half of the Rangers lineup would be crucial as they look to find some protection for Joey Gallo.
Marte has two years remaining on his current contract assuming wherever he lands picks up his club option for 2021. While not purely a rental player, a two-year deal is something that Texas will be wary of considering their current timeline. While they did acquire Corey Kluber who was on a two-year deal just a couple of weeks ago, Kluber’s trade value was at an all-time low making the risk tolerable. Marte’s trade value is nearly as high as its been and the package required to acquire him would be significant.
While adding Marte would be an instant upgrade to the Rangers lineup, one has to wonder if he fills the most immediate need. Texas is still desperate to find a third baseman and has been linked regularly with Colorado’s Nolan Arenado who has seen his market heat up. With that need more pressing, the Rangers likely would hesitate to part with prospects that could feature in a deal for somebody to lock up the hot corner. If Texas does deal for Marte, I wouldn’t expect it to come anytime soon and I’d expect it to be after they polish off their infield. Of the teams linked, the Mets potentially could have more to offer than the Texas Rangers as would the Padres. However San Diego’s win-now mentality still seems a stretch so the timeline is a bit funky. Arizona seemingly has finished off their outfield plans after signing Kole Calhoun and featuring Ketel Marte in center. They could shuffle things around but they feel like the longest shot.