The Los Angeles Dodgers are reshaping their outfield, and Starling Marte has emerged as a worthy trade target.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will have a new-look outfield this year, with Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp gone to the Cincinnati Reds in a trade and trade rumors now surrounding Joc Pederson. They are on the periphery of the market for Bryce Harper, with rumored interest in free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock, but according to Michael Duarte of NBC Los Angeles the Dodgers are in “active and ongoing” trade discussions with the Pittsburgh Pirates regarding Starling Marte.
Marte is coming off a solid 2018 campaign for the Pirates, as he posted a .277/.327/.460 slash-line with 20 home runs, 72 RBI and 33 stolen bases. That .460 slugging percentage was the best of his career, and he had the highest WAR (3.7) among qualified Pirates’ players.
Leaving aside a shortened 2017 season, due to a performance-enhancing drug suspension, Marte has hit at least .277 with at least 30 stolen bases in five of the last six seasons. In three of the last five seasons, he has posted a slugging percentage over .450.
Marte is a two-time Gold Glover (2015 and 2016), and he’s primarily been a left fielder. But he was above average in center field for Pittsburgh last year (3.2 Ultimate Zone Rating), with 10 outfield assists (third in the National League among center fielders).
Assuming the Dodgers miss on Harper, Pollock is the quick fall back on the free agent market. But it’s out there he wants a contract like the one Lorenzo Cain got last offseason (five years, $80 million), without the recent resume to back it up. Signing Pollock also carries draft pick compensation, since he turned down a qualifying offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Marte is due to make $10.3 million in 2019, with team options for 2020 ($11.5 million and 2021 ($12.5 million). The buyouts on those last two years are $2 million and $1 million respectively, but at full value he’s under contract for the next three years at $34.3 million. The first three years of a five-year deal in line with Pollock’s apparent demands, depending on the structure, would almost surely push toward $40 million at the low end. Marte is also close to a full year younger, at 30 years old.
The Dodgers have the ability to stretch the payroll and pay big money to players. But that doesn’t mean they have to in their search for outfield reinforcements this offseason, and all that should stand in the way of a move to get Marte is Pittsburgh having too high an asking price.