The Mariners may be stacked in the outfield throughout their organization, but that may not stop them from continuing to add to the group from a Major League talent perspective.
Yesterday, following MLB Trade Rumors’ release of their annual arbitration salary projections, the publication shifted its attention to the potential trade market for current Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. The 31-year-old Marte is coming off a 3.0 fWAR season in which he slashed .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs, 82 RBIs, and 25 stolen bases, and still has two years left of club control at a very fair price for his level of production ($11.5 million in 2020, $12.5 million in ’21).
Of the teams listed in MLBTR’s article, you’ll find the usual suspects: the Mets, Phillies, Reds, Rangers, etc. But one team that’s brought up towards the tail end of the piece are the Seattle Mariners, mentioned as ‘opportunistic buyers’ that may jump on the opportunity if the price is right.
Now, this appears to be nothing but pure speculation rather than anything rooted in rumors or fact. The writer goes on to acknowledge the Mariners’ significant depth at outfield in their organization, noting that Seattle will likely turn to ‘internal options’ rather than buying on someone like Marte. But the idea is fairly interesting, just for the sole fact that Marte does indeed fit the Mariners’ intended window for contention in 2021.
At some point along the Mariners’ current rebuild, it’s expected that they’ll supplement their roster with veteran reinforcements, a la Marte. And perhaps acquiring someone like Marte may open the door for the Mariners to feel more comfortable in trading one of their younger outfield pieces to acquire something else of need, like a starting pitcher, for example.
So what would a trade for Marte look like? I wouldn’t expect a whole lot as a Pirates fan. Marte’s in line to make $24 million over the next two seasons, and while that’s more than appropriate for a player of his caliber, teams aren’t going to deal from their top echelon of prospects for a 30+ outfield bat with two years of club control. Taking that into account as well as the trade market for veteran bats in general over the last couple years and a hefty price tag just doesn’t seem all that realistic.
If the Mariners were to trade for Marte, it would likely start with someone like Braden Bishop, Juan Then, or Sam Carlson. I would assume that a team that’s more focused on 2020 would be willing to exceed that, if only slightly. Overall, though, I wouldn’t expect much more than that given the circumstances, especially from the Mariners’ perspective. I agree with the notion that the Mariners will be opportunistic buyers from this offseason to next, but I doubt they’d make a move on a player like Marte if it wasn’t for 50 cents on the dollar or less.
Ultimately, I don’t think Marte’s a legitimate option for the Mariners this offseason. Perhaps if he’s dealt elsewhere and has a strong year but his new team struggles, the Mariners could revisit the topic next July or winter. But for now, it would be unwise to deplete some of their organizational depth for an older player at a position they’re pretty solid at.