Posted on January 27, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine

Pittsburgh Pirates Starling Marte
Image via usatoday.com

With the offseason slowly coming to an end, the Arizona Diamondbacks have pulled off a trade to improve their roster for 2020. On Monday, the Diamondbacks agreed to a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for center fielder Starling Marte. In return, the Pirates will receive pitching prospect Brennan Malone, shortstop prospect Liover Pegeuro, and $250,000 in international bonus pool money.

Obviously, Marte is the headline of the trade. He’s been frequently mentioned in the rumor mill this winter, so it’s not surprising to see him sent to a new team before the start of the season. Despite an 80-game PED suspension in 2017 hanging over his head, Marte has been one of the best center fielders in baseball over the last half-dozen years. While Marte’s defense has declined over the last year or two, he’s coming off the best offensive season of his career, hitting .295 with an OPS of .845 in 2019, fueled by a career-high 23 home runs.

The Diamondbacks will be getting the 31-year-old Marte for at least two seasons. He is set to make $11.5 million in 2020 and has an option for the 2021 season of $12.5 million. Barring a disastrous campaign, Arizona will likely pick that up at the end of the season. Again, his defense is becoming an issue for Marte now that he’s in his 30s. But the Diamondbacks are hopeful that he will continue to contribute offensively the way he did last season.

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The addition of Marte completes an offseason overhaul of the Arizona outfield. David Peralta remains a stalwart in left field while the Diamondbacks added Kole Calhoun to be their right fielder earlier this winter. With Marte taking over in center field, the Diamondbacks can move Ketel Marte to second base after he started over half of Arizona’s games in center field last year. That will likely push Eduardo Escobar into a timeshare with Jake Lamb at third base with Escobar previously penciled in at second base. With Lamb coming off two subpar, injury-plagued seasons, not being forced to play every day could work to his benefit.

For the Pirates, trading Marte is a sign that they are about to enter a full-scale rebuilding period. The franchise has had a change in manager, GM, and team president this offseason, so trading Marte is a sign that the Pirates will try to start rebuilding from the bottom up. Guillermo Heredia is the obvious internal option to replace Marte in center field. However, Heredia has struggled to establish himself as a productive big leaguer and was non-tendered by the Rays after the last season. He’s more suited to be a fourth outfielder, making for an obvious drop-off in Pittsburgh’s outfield.

On the bright side, the Pirates have added two promising prospects, although both are 19 and a few years away from the big leagues. Malone was the 33rd overall pick in last year’s draft. He’s raw but has a high ceiling and was Arizona’s no. 9 prospect, according to MLB.com. Pegeuro was the no. 18 prospect in Arizona’s farm system. He has promising tools and had a productive season in low-A ball in 2019.

For the Pirates, this trade is clearly a move to restock their farm system and a sign that they aren’t expecting to compete in 2020. In that sense, their acquisitions offer great potential for the future. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks trading for Marte is a sign that they expect to compete this season. Arizona has added the likes of Marte, Calhoun, and Madison Bumgarner to a team that won 85 games last year. By no means will they be the favorite in the NL West this season, but they’ve done enough to make themselves an intriguing dark horse in 2020.

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