The Houston Astros are set to lose George Springer in free agency, but a deal with the Miami Marlins could net them his replacement.
George Springer is one of the top free agents available, and the Houston Astros are unlikely to seriously compete with multiple other suitors. And that leaves aside his rumored desire to leave the Astros.
So the Astros will have a significant void to fill in center field. They are rumored to be interested in Jackie Bradley in free agency. While he’s a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, even at his best Bradley is a serious downgrade from Springer offensively. So a pivot to other options, maybe via the trade market, might in in store.
The Marlins may have the Astros replacement for Springer
Starling Marte started the 2020 campaign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then the Miami Marlins acquired him at the trade deadline. He had a solid season split almost equally between the two teams, with a .281/.340/.430 slash-line, six home runs, 27 RBI, 14 doubles and 10 stolen bases over 250 plate appearances (61 games).
Marte had a rough run to end the season though. He was hit in the head by a pitch during the regular season finale, but escaped with only a left ear contusion. Then he was hit in the hand by a pitch in the ninth inning of the Marlins’ first postseason game (a game in which he went 2-for-4). He suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand, and he was left off the NLDS roster.
The Marlins saw enough from Marte to pick up his $12.5 million option for 2021, and he’s projected to be their center fielder.
Marte is a two-time Gold Glover (2015 and 2016), mostly as a left fielder as Andrew McCutchen patrolled center for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Advanced metrics have never been complimentary of Marte’s work in center field, but he has played there for all but three innings over the last three seasons. A look at Inside Edge’s metrics shows he makes the plays he’s “supposed to” in center. At 32 years old that can be just fine when paired with an above-average bat, and Marte is that (.287 career batting average, 107 OPS+ last season, 115 OPS+ for his career).
Even if the Marlins may contend for a playoff spot again in 2021, playing on an expiring contract makes Marte a potential trade chip. If they believe in Lewis Brinson‘s run through a chunk of September (.389;14-for-36, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1.072 OPS over 15 games from Sept. 4-15), they could turn to the once highly-regarded prospect in center.
As the Astros move toward replacing Springer, here’s a deal that could net Marte from the Marlins.
OF Starling Marte
2B/SS Jeremy Pena
OF Jordan Brewer
The Astros have had their farm system pipeline depleted by trades and graduations to the big leagues, which yielded poor rankings from MLB.com heading into 2020 (28th) and at midseason (27th). Miami had MLB.com’s fifth-ranked farm system at midseason, as they have rebuilt things quickly. With three-fourths of their infield pretty well locked down right now, barring a short-sighted trade, the Astros part with the No. 4 prospect in their system (Pena) and No. 10 Brewer to get Marte.