In 2013 the Pittsburgh Pirates reached the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century. The Pirates have a wonderful connection to Boston as both teams faced off in the first World Series in 1903.
Boston and Pittsburgh have also occasionally traded players. Boston fans that go way back, such as myself, can thank them for giving us Dick Stuart. I am now, after years of therapy, over that trade.
Pittsburgh finally altered their baseball philosophy by locking up young talent. No more need to shuffle a Jason Bay away due to fiscal constraints. One such player, Starling Marte, has been given a contract that runs into, no typo, 2021. The contract is back loaded so that the last three seasons require an outlay of $34M.
Marte is 25 years old, a right-handed bat and glove, and has played primarily left field for the Pirates with occasional forays into center field.
Marte had a season in 2013 that showed promise. A slash of .280/.343/.441 was enough to convince the Pirates to look forward with Marte. Marte also demonstrated some decent power with 26 doubles, 10 triples and 12 home runs, but the caveat is he only had 35 RBI. Marte, with plus speed (41 steals), did score 83 runs but was caught a league leading 15 times in steal attempts.
What stands out to the OBP obsessed is 4.8% career BB% and 25.7% career K%. This is further reflected in metrics on O-Swing% and Z-Swing%. Marte is a rather undisciplined hitter at this stage of his career.
Defensively Marte does have above average metrics in UZR-150 and DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). Marte was recognized for defensive excellence in the International League in 2012 as the best defensive outfielder. Marte was also rated the best batting prospect and most exciting IL player in 2012. Yes, as an occasional attendee at Pawtucket, I was impressed by Marte.
As 2014 progresses, Marte’s slash is currently at .235/.306/.362, representing a regression. After 57 games Marte is at 67 strikeouts – not an encouraging number. The season, however, is still young, as is Marte.
With Jonny Gomes contract expiring at the end of 2014, the sudden demise of Daniel Nava and the ongoing health issues of Shane Victorino, the Red Sox need outfield depth. The farm system also seems to be in somewhat of an outfield-producing funk, so, just maybe, Marte would be worth investigating.
The Marte contract is very friendly for the Pirates for the next few seasons. Marte also, despite a rather disappointing 2014, has a nice potential upside. The Pirates also have a commitment to their fans and players that business as usual is a thing of the past, so trading Marte could send the wrong message.
What would it take?
The Red Sox have discussed Mike Carp in the past so would the addition of Carp, who can play LF, be enough?
Would the Pirates interest be more in adding another pitcher and not a positional player?
The Red Sox system has several prospects of note and that would be the issue at hand. Is it worth the Red Sox risk to toss in a Matt Barnes or Allen Webster? Or would a slightly lower prospect, say a Brian Johnson, appeal to Pittsburgh? Would a suddenly “stock is falling” Drake Britton do? I could not see the Red Sox adding a premium minor league pitcher to the mix.
For the Pirates they have the potential in their own system to replace Marte.
Gregory Polanco is on the fast track with a world of talent and is rated one of the best prospects in baseball. On the roster, Jose Tabata, locked up through 2019, is a reserve who has seen considerable duty. Tabata is also a reserve for a reason.
I am sure Pirates fans have some views on who could fill an outfield slot or just what their potential needs are.