In regards to roster additions and construction, this offseason has been uncharacteristically uneventful for the Phillies so far- save for the impact signings of infielder Didi Gregorius and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. In fact, Gregorius and Wheeler are the only players the Phils have brought in on major-league contracts this winter.
A far cry from the aggressive, spending heavy strategy implemented an offseason ago in which they acquired all-stars Jean Segura, J.T Realmuto, and Bryce Harper, the Phillies have opted to seek value in low-risk, minor-league pacts with various veterans.
Chief among them, former Pirates Francisco Liriano, Neil Walker, and Josh Harrison have all been invited to Phillies’ camp when Spring Training kicks off. Strangely enough, their signings give the Phillies a total of four members from the Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 roster. Even after adding the aforementioned talented veterans, however, the Phillies currently figure to be the third-best team in the NL East behind the Braves and reigning WS Champion Nationals- an unfortunate reality for a Phillies team with playoff aspirations entering 2020.
If the Phillies intend on closing the gap between them and their division counterparts before Opening Day, however, there is yet another former Pirate that could pique their interest- Starling Marte.
Marte, a former All-Star and 2x Gold Glove center fielder, is said to be available via trade this offseason. Coming off their fourth-straight 79+ loss season, the Pirates have a new front-office regime in place- spearheaded by freshly-minted GM Ben Cherington- and seem destined for yet another rebuild. With that in mind, it makes sense that they are open to trading the talented Marte, who likely no longer fits into their long-term plans.
Additionally, it appears Marte wouldn’t be opposed to a change of scenery himself. He had this to say when rumors of a potential Mets trade floated around earlier this offseason.
“[The Pirates] have the power to decide about my future. If it was for me, I will leave for a team that is ready to compete right now on a World Series, and that’s not our case.”
Despite carrying a crew of gifted outfielders in Andrew McCutchen,
Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery*, Jay Bruce, and Bryce Harper, trading for Marte makes a ton of sense for the Phillies.
For starters, he is a force to be reckoned with at the plate. Last season, Marte had 23 home runs, 82 RBIs, and a .295 batting average in just 132 games. He accomplished this despite having minimal lineup protection from the 69-93 Pirates, who finished dead last in the NL Central.
In Philly, he’d further bolster an already impressive offense that features sluggers Rhys Hoskins, J.T Realmuto, and Bryce Harper. The improved lineup protection in Philly could result in an even more productive 2020 campaign for Marte than his impressive efforts a season ago and would give the Phillies one of the most fearsome offenses in the league.
Furthermore, on the offensive side of the ball, Marte would fill the need for the right-handed platoon partner to Adam Haseley in center field that the Phils desire. Marte, of course, is talented enough to be much more than just a platoon partner- as he’d probably win the starting job outright over Haseley- but even that would benefit the Phillies.
Despite an impressive rookie season at the plate, the Phillies should be hesitant to thrust a full-time role on Haseley’s shoulders and a Marte swap would alleviate some of the pressure entering into his sophomore season and allow him to develop at a more reasonable rate. The potential Marte acquisition would also bolster the Phillies bench, as Haseley would be a superb reserve option and a vast upgrade over the likes of incumbent bench options Roman Quinn, Nick Wiliams, and/or Odubel Herrera.
The Phillies could also opt to play Haseley in left field a bit more while Marte patrols center field to lighten the load of Andrew McCutchen, who will be making his return to the field following a gruesome ACL tear last summer.
If the Phillies are to pursue a Marte trade, however, it would behoove them to move quickly as the division-rival Mets have already expressed interest, along with several other clubs. Marte would vastly improve and lengthen the Phillies lineup, something they’ll desperately need in order to compensate for their poor pitching.
Already with four former Pirates in tow, the Phillies may be one more away from a return to the postseason.
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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