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Analyzing the Starling Marte trade

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Starling Marte figures to be the D-backs everyday CF for the next two seasons.

MLB: General Managers Meetings Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamondbacks have announced to the rest of the baseball world that they are indeed contenders by trading for Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. In the deal, the D-backs are giving up two prospects in the 6-10 range in Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone along with $250K in 2019 International Bonus Money while getting $1.5MM back to pay for Marte’s salary. The team managed to avoid having to trade any of their Top 100 prospects in the deal, opting to package two players from the next tier instead while also improving the combination of CF and 2B positions by close to 2 wins overall.

Here’s how the trade affects the team:

MLB Roster

The obvious domino effect is Starling Marte will be in center field and Ketel Marte will be at second base. The move would put Ketel in his best defensive position and give the Diamondbacks an outfield of David Peralta, S. Marte, and Kole Calhoun for the next two years while they let the trio of Kristian Robinson, Corbin Carroll, and Alek Thomas continue to climb up the system. With Ketel at 2B, that will move Eduardo Escobar to a full-time 3B role and likely gives Torey Lovullo his best possible defensive infield with 4 everyday players capable of playing at least above-average defense.

The D-backs will also have a capable bat in CF, with Starling Marte’s numbers consistently around 120 OPS+ throughout his career. His defense is no longer great, but the team is hoping that he breaks even at the minimum. Defensive metrics paint all different sorts of pictures, with Defensive Runs Saved (-11) and UZR/150 (-9.5) grading his defense negatively while Statcast’s Outs Above Average had him at +2 on the strength of good jumps. With the need to have a quality defensive CF due to the large NL West ballparks, anything closer to Statcast’s metrics would help the team tremendously.

The move also puts pressure on Jake Lamb to be able to carve out a roster spot this Spring. The team could easily just play Walker full time at 1B and get average to above-average production at the position, so Lamb is going to have to provide much more than 109 wRC+ with the bat. Walker was a Gold Glove finalist and put up strong baserunning numbers, so the bar is probably much higher than that. That could put him on the outside looking in barring an injury to Walker or Escobar at 3B.

Prospect Cost

The good news from this deal is the organization did not give up of their Top 100 guys. Peguero wasn’t too far behind in my opinion and could be on that list a year from now if he hits in A ball this season. Peguero flashes a potential plus hit tool and average power once he fills out more with potentially starting 2B/3B upside long term. The team had a pair of shortstop prospects ahead of him with Blaze Alexander and Geraldo Perdomo likely ticketed for Visalia and Jackson this year. Perdomo placed 77th and 82nd on Baseball America and MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 lists and the front office highly values him with more projectable power potentially coming.

Malone has a high octane arm with mid to upper 90s heat and a decent slider. He has more upside than Peguero long term if he develops a third pitch and fills out to 230+. The team picked up plenty of high velo arms in the past two seasons along with Luis Frias finally breaking through last season and getting to full season ball. Levi Kelly, Drey Jameson, and Ryne Nelson also each present high velo options with significant reliever risk at this moment although Kelly managed to pitch his way past Full A in 2019. Even with significant reliever risk, Malone probably has a better chance of sticking over those guys.

For the calculation, I used my own grades of 45+ for Peguero and Malone, using the average dollar value for their respective grades. In the balance sheet, I used the ZiPS projection with Marte for Pittsburgh (2.8 fWAR) and subtracted 0.5 for the 2021 projection. The deal also accounts for the $1.5MM the Pirates are paying for Marte’s salary and the $250k in international bonus money going to Pittsburgh, which I assume is for 2019-20. Overall I think it’s a pretty good deal, unless you think both prospects are more likely to develop into major contributors despite the 3+ year wait time.

Conclusion

There is always the possibility that Peguero and Malone hit their ceilings (55 and 60 FV respectively) and the D-backs don’t make the playoffs the next two seasons. That will be a major missed opportunity for a postseason run and the team will probably have to wait until 2023-24 before having a stronger postseason shot as the kids from the 2017-19 drafts and international classes find their way into the majors. On paper, I believe this trade makes sense as the team is dealing two volatile prospects with high ceilings for someone who can help them in their biggest position player hole the past four seasons. Time will tell how this trade actually goes for the D-backs.

Poll

The Starling Marte trade is

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  • 29%
    Some Jedi-level stuff
    (190 votes)
  • 62%
    Good
    (404 votes)
  • 4%
    Meh...
    (30 votes)
  • 2%
    Poor
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    The Star Wars Holiday Special
    (6 votes)
645 votes total Vote Now