Could the Diamondbacks target Starling Marte?

PHOENIX – One of the important decisions during this off-season for general manager Mike Hazen of the Arizona Diamondbacks is a principal judgment on Ketel Marte. That would include whether Hazen, and the organization, believes Marte has more value in center field or at second base. In 2019, Marte played both positions with aplomb, precision, and results.

If the decision to play Marte at second, where he was named to the 2019 National League All-Star team, then Hazen would be in search of an outfielder. Should Hazen decide to place Marte in center, then Jason Kipnis, Brian Dozer or even Didi Gregorius could fit that infield slot. Here in the off-season, Hazen hinted he would prefer Marte at second and that would place the organization in search of a centerfielder.

One consideration here would be acquiring Starling Marte, whose $12.5 million, 2020 option was recently picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The move to retain Starling Marte, who played his previous eight seasons with the Pirates, represents the first significant decision by Ben Cherington, the new Bucco’s general manager. At the same time, the signing of Starling Marte could be Cherington’s first move in trying to rebuild the Pirates and simply trade Starling.

After the Pirates picked up Starling Marte’s option, the rumors began to circulate that the New York Mets were the first team in line for trade discussions. Among other teams rumored to enter negotiations were the Chicago Cubs and Diamondbacks.

For Arizona to acquire Marte, it’s likely an important piece of Hazen’s future would be under consideration. Given the Diamondbacks have a specific need in center field, the acquisition of an outfielder would appear to supersede gaining an infielder.

For the 2019 season, Starling Marte finished with a .295 batting average 31 doubles, six triples, 23 homers and a career-high 82 RBIs for the Pirates. Clearly, Marte’s value is his speed and has 239 career stolen bases.

The asking price for Marte is expected to be high. If Hazen has his sights on the native of Santo Domingo, D. R, the Diamondbacks may part with pitcher Luke Weaver, first baseman Christian Walker (if the Pirates decide to move Josh Bell), or David Peralta, a Gold Glove recipient.

By acquiring Marte, the need for center would be satisfied but if Peralta goes and the future of Stephen Souza, Jr. remains right is precarious at best, this would leave the Diamondbacks vulnerable at corner slots.

One international name which could interest Hazen is Shogo Akiyama, a 31-year-old out of Yokosuka, Japan. At 6-0, 187, Akiyama is a natural centerfielder who has a lifetime batting average of .301 for nine seasons. The issue with Akiyama is other clubs have expressed interest and a bidding war could result.

Current free agents among outfielders who may interest Hazen include former Diamondback Keon Broxton, Buckeye resident Cole Calhoun, Nick Castellanos, Brett Gardner, Billy Hamilton, Alex Gordon, and Cameron Maybin.

For now, the reasonable search for Hazen is a legitimate outfielder and allow Ketel Marte to grow and flourish as a complete, major league second baseman.

Other decisions await Hazen, notably a back-up catcher for Carson Kelly. Here, Alex Aliva is a free agent and the Diamondbacks have made no move, to date, to bring back the veteran backstop.

Elsewhere, a decision on Jake Lamb’s future in Sedona Red needs to be addressed as well as judgments on free agent relievers Yoshihisa Hirano, Matt Andriese, Yoan Lopez and Silvino Bracho.