Six short years ago, Ketel Marte was a rookie shortstop for the Seattle Mariners coming off of an encouraging first stint in the majors. A 21-year-old at the time, Marte had just hit .283 with 14 doubles in 57 games, and appeared well on his way to a bright future in Seattle.
However, in the 2016 offseason, after the Mariners fell shy of the playoffs in Marte’s second season with the club, General Manager Jerry Dipoto made a trade that drastically altered the future of Seattle baseball: Marte, along with fiery young starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, were traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Mitch Haniger (who’s remained with the franchise for the last five years) and shortstop Jean Segura (who was traded for J.P. Crawford in the 2018 offseason).
Ketel Marte is a switch-hitter, plays multiple positions, and would fit nicely in the middle of the Mariners’ batting order.
Ever since the Seattle Mariners’ season ended in early October, we’ve been discussing the team’s need to add another contributor (ideally left-handed) to help produce runs in the middle of the lineup. Kyle Seager, the club’s RBI leader this season, is headed out the door, so run production will be at a premium next year.
Marte, 28, is coming off of a year in which he posted a .318/.377/.532 slash line (resulting in an excellent .909 OPS), along with 14 dingers and 50 RBIs; this came in only 90 games, as he was mired by a hamstring strain throughout the season. Ninety games is still a solid sample size, though, so he is most likely not too far removed from a stellar 2019 season in which he posted a .981 OPS, 32 home runs, and 92 RBIs, while finishing 4th in NL MVP voting.
In his career as a switch-hitter, his splits are impressive: he’s shown a balanced line with a career OPS of .763 as a right-handed hitter, and a .882 OPS as a left-handed hitter. Switch-hitting is a trait that the Mariners like (see Abraham Toro and Cal Raleigh), so he could fit very well as the everyday #3 hitter in Seattle, coming after the on-base threats of J.P. Crawford and Ty France and before an RBI machine in Mitch Haniger.
Defensively, Marte has extensive experience at three positions: center field, second base, and shortstop. The Mariners also highly value players who have versatility in the field, so the flexibility of bringing in Marte to either man center (if Seattle projects a better fit for Jarred Kelenic in left) or second (if they can’t lure in a free agent infielder) makes a lot of sense.
As for the Diamondbacks’ asking price for Marte – it could be considerably high. Marte is on an ultra-team friendly contract, as he’s only owed $8 million next year, then club options are in place for 2023 and 2024 at $10 million and $12 million respectively. For a team that desires a competitive window for the next several years (such as the Mariners), that contract is about as attractive as it gets.
Who would the Mariners be willing to give up in order to bring in a talent like Ketel Marte?
The Diamondbacks are in full rebuild mode, but they have a Top-10 prospect system. Ideally, Seattle would not have to ship the franchise’s #2 prospect, shortstop Noelvi Marte, so it works out well that two of the D-Backs’ top 10 prospects are middle infielders (Jordan Lawlar and Geraldo Perdomo).
Fortunately for the Mariners, the core of their #2 ranked prospect system is composed of pitchers, and the D-Backs are coming off of a season in which their pitching staff allowed the second most runs in all of baseball, finishing the season with a dreadful team ERA of 5.11.
Arizona does not have any pitchers in their minor league system currently ranked in MLB’s Top-100 prospects; Seattle, meanwhile, has two pitchers (George Kirby and Emerson Hancock) ranked 33rd and 34th, respectively. The D-Backs need a stud pitching prospect for fans to get excited about as they continue their rebuild, and I believe Hancock is the name to watch (combined with a few other pitchers in the Mariners’ top 30 prospects) when considering a potential trade for Marte.
Keep an eye on MLB’s Winter Meetings in early December; there could be some big news coming out of Orlando about an upcoming reunion in Seattle.