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SnakePit Round Table: Marte Party

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Martes are the new market inefficiency...

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MLB: APR 26 Pirates at Diamondbacks Photo by Wilfred Perez/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Were you surprised by the addition of Starling Marte to the D-backs roster?

Charlie: A little bit. It seemed like the window was closing with spring training camps right around the corner, but the need was there and Hazen seems in it to win it the next few years.

Jack: Not totally surprised there was a trade. With Kevin Pillar the likely only FA possibility remaining to fill the CF slot, if they were going to get anything done it was going to be a trade. Still, I wasn’t expecting it to be Starling Marte as I thought the price for him would be even higher than it turned out to be.

Turambar: I was less surprised by the move (talked about for a while) and more surprised by the cost of the move, in that we not quite but almost made out like bandits.

Makakilo: I was surprised because the D-backs gave a second-chance to a player who had a PED suspension. Why did it happen? Starling Marte said, “Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake…”

In May of 2018, Geoff Baker wrote that although 10% of MLB players are from Dominican Republic, 40% of suspended MLB players are from Dominican Republic. He speculated that players from Dominican Republic need better support systems. If so, the Diamondbacks are the right team for Starling Marte!

Starling Marte came back from his suspension as a better player. Two quotes follow:

  • “It was good that he experienced what he did because I think it reignited his appreciation for the game, for the opportunity he has, and for his gifts. He had to find his way and work his way back.” — Clint Hurdle
  • “He’s coming out of his shell. He’s talking to people, he’s doing post-game interviews and everything. I can see the difference in him. It’s a confidence. It’s a courage, the way he’s speaking so much in English now. He’s looking to relate to all of his teammates and has stepped up to take a leadership role in the outfield.” — Bartee

Although Starling Marte will not get my vote for Hall of Fame, I believe in chances for redemption, so I will enthusiastically cheer for him.

Michael: Yes and no. I wasn’t surprised that the team was still attempting to execute a trade for a CF, but the timing certainly was a surprise. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the team was going to deploy Ketel Marte in CF and try to fill up the 2B hole somehow. As Hazen mentioned in his conference call, the trade talks quickly gained steam in the ten days before the deal was executed and ultimately the Pirates were more willing to negotiate from their initial asking point.

Dano: Yes, honestly. Like Michael, I’d pretty much assumed that Ketel would be patrolling center field in 2020. I wouldn’t have been unhappy about that, honestly—he looked really good out there. And the popular wisdom seemed to be that he’d be very costly in terms of prospects, to a point where Hazen likely wouldn’t make a deal.

Arizona a) gave up too much, b) paid a fair price, or c) got a steal

Charlie: Before you consider option A recall the prospect development acumen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and then have a nice cup of tea. They throw parades for World Series winners, not “We got good prospect value in trade” winners. This move makes the former at least slightly more doable. (That’s a long way to say “B”)

Jack: They paid a fair price. I thought they would have to substantially overpay to get a deal done, but in the end, it appears pretty even on paper.

Makakilo: The price paid in prospects was a slight overpay (invisibleinkwell’s comment on AZ SnakePit site compared $23.75 Million vs $20.1 Million estimated with help by Baseball Trade Values site). I expected a larger overpay would have been required given this season’s market for CF. In other words, it was a fair trade for both sides. Given the D-back’s depth in prospects, it’s unlikely that this trade will hurt the team’s future. And because the advantage of playing Ketel Marte at second base more often, this trade was a win for the D-backs.

Michael: It depends on how you view the long term futures of the prospects, but in today’s value I would say it’s a fair price to pay. Peguero is probably the more painful prospect to give up because he’s an up-the-middle position player who has the tools to be an above-average hitter and defender. Malone comes from a more volatile position group (prep RHPs) of the two, but if he can develop a 3rd pitch to go with mid 90s heat and a plus slider could be a problem as well. The Pirates couldn’t nab any of the top 100 guys in the Dbacks system, so they literally went with two guys who could be on that list either next year or the year after.

Turambar: Right now it feels like a steal of a deal, but like ALL trades that’ll change over time and in this case it’s especially dependent upon us making the playoffs the next two years. That’s where my focus comes in to play on this deal, because it’s so hard to really gauge prospect value until well after the trigger has been pulled. With that in mind the next two seasons come in to sharp focus, and that’s where this deal will thrive or die.

Dano: Seems like we got him on the cheap, which is good. If we’d given up much more I would not have been thrilled.

What are you expecting out of Marte for the next two years?

Charlie: Decent production and a good center field bat. I’d probably bat him leadoff with Ketel in the two hole. You could probably make some merch off of that combination too.

Jack: He had a good offensive year last year, and I would expect similar production. While aging curves will knock his expected production down I’m hoping being on a team with a better chance at the post season will keep him energized and focused. (Which has been an issue with him on and off throughout his career) I’m also hopeful that working with Dave McKay and receiving superior positioning input will result in a reversal of his defensive metrics trends. He’ll need to be coachable on that score too though. Great Article detailing some of his methods from Zach Buchanan of the Athletic I have to admit I have questions about how willing a veteran like Marte will be to take detailed instructions from McKay. It was no accident that my question to him during the conference called centered on what he knew about McKay and whether he was looking forward to working with him. (The answer was he didn’t really know anything about McKay)

Makakilo: Almost nothing is simple. Three big impacts:

  • Starling Marte will improve the D-back’s offense.
  • Pairing Ketel Marte with Nick Ahmed will improve infield defense.
  • Provided time for Robinson/Carroll/Thomas to develop and reach the Majors. arsho, Alek Thomas and Kristian Robinson

Michael: I would expect above-average CF production at the plate and in the field. On my trade balance sheet, I had Marte putting up 2.8 WAR (Steamer projection) and 2.3 WAR in his Age 31 and 32 seasons. If Marte is willing to listen to the coaches’ instructions on positioning, then I could see him having a minor bump defensively. Outs above average, which takes into consideration the positional data and the chances each outfielder has gotten, had Marte at +2 on the season. If that’s a better indication of his glove, then I think the team will be OK. At the plate Marte relies a lot on making contact, especially on the ground and line drives, to put up high BABIP totals and HBP to offset an otherwise low walk rate. He’s more useful in a situation where a hit is more valuable than a walk/HBP, so I prefer the idea of batting him either 5th or 6th to avoid any potential GIDP opportunities.

Turambar: I’m expecting our offensive production to well outpace our defensive production in CF, which I can live with as long as Starling doesn’t become a liability out there. I think he’ll be a solid “ok” with his glove, but with the offensive support around him in the lineup and Chase Field’s batters eye he should have a banner year at the plate.

Dano: I expect offensive production from him that’s broadly on par with what he’s put up over most of his career; if we get that, I will be very happy. His defense concerns me, though per Jack, some improvement with better coaching seems like a possibility. At the very least, though, like Turambar says, as long as he isn’t a liability out there I can live with average defense.

Will Jake Lamb be a Diamondback on Opening Day?

Charlie: I’m gonna say “probably” (Like 75-80% sure) but he’ll be a platoon/bench/pinch hit guy at most unless someone gets injured or he gets that first half of 2017 mojo back. I feel slightly more confident that he’ll stick around now that MLB has set 26 man rosters for 2020.

Jack: I think Charlie has it right. In fact I have the following for his playing time for 2020

Games Started :1b-25, 3b-10, DH-3 ttl 38 GS, 146 PA, + 55 Pinch Hit and a handful of utility appearances, total PA for 2020 203

Makakilo: Because I see Lamb as a platoon player on the D-backs, his $5.5 Million salary is excessive. His value as a primary third baseman (on another team) would be higher than as a platoon player on the D-backs. Unless an injury happens, I expect him to be traded this season. Nevertheless, because Hazen will patiently wait for the right trade, the odds are 50% he will be a D-back on opening day.

Michael: Unless the team makes another move or Lamb completely stinks the joint in Spring (don’t look at results, look at how he’s hitting the ball), I would believe he is a lock. Given the roster construction as is, Lamb still might get 200-250 PA and about 43 starts overall (20 each at 1B and 3B, 3 for DH, plus about 40 PH PA) if Lovullo can leverage the defensive versatility for Escobar, both Martes, and Lamb properly. Given that Walker had no major platoon splits between RHP (power-driven) and LHP (OBP-driven) in 2019, I don’t think they will need to take him out of the lineup too much. The number of plate appearances could go up if there is an injury on the infield.

Turambar: Meh, at this point I’d rather Lamb was cut and the team pocket the savings. In all likelihood he’ll stay and get starts here, there and everywhere. Either way the Starling move all but guarantees he won’t start every day and that his time as a Dback is slowly drawing to a close.

Dano: I hope not, but I’d be surprised if we’d be able to move him at this point. Maybe we can find a team that believes that they could teach him to hit lefties? Seems unlikely. So yeah, my guess is he’s going to be playing to sort of role described by just about everyone else here so far.

Barring injury, is the roster now effectively set?

Charlie: Unless Mike Hazen has “PUIG SURPRISE!” in his deck, it seems like we’re done.

Jack: His comment was that the “heavy lifting” was done but they may still make some moves around the edges. It would be a major surprise if there were any moves between now and the middle of spring training that would substantially alter the makeup of the team.

Makakilo: Yes. The roster is better than I anticipated at the beginning of the off-season. Expecting the D-backs to reach the playoffs is realistic! I am very optimistic!

Michael: Any potential moves with MLB impact will likely go towards improving the bench. With Lamb, they have a big LH bat and could potentially use someone with similar impact from the right side. The team does have a couple of RH bats in AAA that rely on a power over hit approach to the game in Kevin Cron and Andy Young. Cron is essentially a DH with plus raw and in-game power that could lend itself in a HR or bust situation whereas Young has a bit of a higher floor as a passable defender at 2 infield positions (2B, 3B) and a bit more discipline and HBP skills (not a typo) at the plate. If Hazen would rather go for a more sure option with that profile in mind, he could turn to Brian Dozier in the FA market although I think that rumor was quickly shot down when it appeared.

Turambar: Naw, we’re done.

Dano: I expect maybe a bit of bullpen tinkering or, like Michael suggests, fiddling around with the balance of our bench. That’s about it.

The Super Bowl is on as we got to press. Are you paying attention?

Charlie: It’s a nice thing to have on in the background when you clean your kitchen.

Jack: The featured meat of the day will be boneless Pork Shoulder, marinated overnight in Fischer & Weiser Raspberry Chipotle Sauce. Stuff is incredilbe on pork. The game looks interesting in that the old standard “Matchups make fights” applies to this game. Was listening to Kurt Warner on 98.7 yesterday, and his “under the radar” point of interest was simply whether or not the K.C. defense can step up and keep San Francisco’s running game in check and below their average of 230 Yards a game. If they can’t it’s going to be tough for Mahomes and company to generate enough offense. I think back to the Giants/Bills Super Bowl of 1990 season. The Giants had massive edge in time of possession: 40:33 vs. 19:27. But the Bills had a quick strike offense and the Giants barely held on for a 20-19 victory when Scottie Norwood missed wide right on a 47 Yarder with 8 seconds left.

Makakilo: Saturday, I purchased a loaf of sour-dough bread - a good omen for the 49’ers.

Michael: Not really, as long as Tyreek Hill is a non-factor in the game I could care less who wins.

Turambar: I’ll be dialed in and having fun at my grandad’s place. Might even win some money on the Super Bowl squares.

Dano: Vaguely. For whatever reason, I found myself watching a fair amount of football when I was on my epic road trip in November, despite having mostly stopped paying attention the last couple of years. I don’t really care which team wins, but I’ve watched them both a fair amount during the latter half of the season, and it seems like it’s going to be a good game. All of the crap surrounding it kind of gets me down—the overproduced commercials, the vapid spectacle of the halftime show—but I expect I will have it on in the background as I go about my other business.