The Dodgers have been connected to plenty of stars this offseason, but with time running out, the team should turn to Starling Marte to fix the outfield.
To credit the Dodgers’ front office, many of the trade rumors surrounding the Dodgers this offseason have involved superstars like Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, and Kris Bryant. While rumors have quieted down involving Lindor and Bryant, a deal for Betts certainly seems reasonable at this point in the offseason.
But for all of the rumors surrounding Betts, why aren’t the Dodgers interested in Starling Marte?
The 31-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder profiles similarly to Betts, 27, and should come at a fraction of the monetary and prospect cost even though he has a $12.5 million team option for 2021 and Betts is just a 2020 rental. Marte hit .295/.342/.503 last season with 23 home runs, backing up his 20-homer return to stardom in 2018 with even better numbers. Betts, who most would consider the far superior hitter, hit .295/.391/.524 with 29 homers. These are obviously better numbers but are not as different as most would assume.
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Both players still are double-digit steal threats, and even with the difference in age, Marte (25 steals) stole more bases than Betts (16) last season. Over the last three seasons, Marte has taken 79 bags to Betts’ 72, and neither is showing signs of slowing down.
On defense, Marte actually seems to be the closer fit for the Dodgers. A true centerfielder, Marte would slot in between Alex Verdugo and Cody Bellinger in left and right field, creating one of the best defensive outfields in the game. Betts, a right fielder with the Boston Red Sox, did play centerfield for Boston in less than 20 games in 2018 and 2019, and he only made one error across these two stints.
The main difference between the two is that Betts has a much higher ceiling. Despite similar 2019 seasons, Betts dominated in 2018, winning a batting title and the AL MVP with a .346 AVG and a 30-30 season (32 homers and 30 steals).
So far, the only NL West teams that have been publically connected to Marte are the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres according to MLBTR. Both teams are still a few moves away from directly competing with the Dodgers for the division title, but adding Marte would certainly be a step in the right direction for these young, retooling teams.
If the Dodgers want to add a star without having to deal one of their elite prospects away for Betts, Marte could be the perfect compromise.
The Pirates have already made it clear that Brandon Nimmo, a 27-year-old Mets outfielder entering his third year in the MLB, is not the type of headliner piece they are looking for, so the Dodgers would probably need to deal a young but still MLB-ready starting pitcher like Tony Gonsolin (25 years old), along with six-foot-six outfield prospect D.J. Peters (24 years old), who was expected to debut in 2019 by MLB Pipeline.
Whether or not talks with the Red Sox about Betts break down, the Dodgers should begin to line up a back-up plan, or maybe even a new plan-A, and discuss dealing for Marte.