With his return to the field scheduled for a week after the All Star Game, Starling Marte will be better than any player the Pittsburgh Pirates could acquire at the trade deadline.
When the second half of the season begins on Friday, it’s pretty incredible that the Pittsburgh Pirates have a record of 42-47 and are seven games back in the division considering all that has gone wrong this year. There is no need to rehash the history of the 2017 Pirates that has been discussed all over the internet, including these hallowed electronic pages. But on July 18th, Starling Marte will be eligible to rejoin his teammates after his 80 game suspension.
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is July 31st, just shy of two weeks from the date Marte will presumably take the field. The addition of Marte will be better than anything the team could potentially acquire on the trade market, and he also will not cost the team anything. His return will have a ripple effect on the team and make the 25 man roster stronger.
Won’t find this kind of talent readily available
Before his suspension, Marte was universally considered to be one of the top outfield talents in the league. Since 2013, his first full season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the lowest WAR he has produced is 3.6, so the chances of the team finding that kind of talent at the deadline and also at a price they are willing to pay, does not exist.
Granted, he only played in 13 games before his suspension began, but given the type of numbers he put up in the previous seasons, he should be able to produce at least a 1.5-2 WAR season the rest of the way out if he hits the ground running.
Considering how poorly all of the NL Central teams have performed this season outside of the Brewers (apologies to Milwaukee, but this author does not see them holding onto this lead), this is not the year, particularly for a cost conscious club such the Pirates, to make a drastic move at the deadline. Let’s be honest, this team has more than one hole that needs to be filled. By inserting Marte back into the lineup, they have bolstered their starting nine without needing to give up any top prospects.
Who is the odd man out?
As mentioned earlier, Marte’s return means that playing time in the outfield for other Pittsburgh Pirates will be cut. This most likely means that Adam Frazier and Jose Osuna will see a lot less time in the outfield compared to during Marte’s league imposed exile. But his return will now make the bench that much stronger since someone like Frazier, who was starting almost everyday, could now see action off the bench with the occasional start in either an outfield or infield position.
The Pirates are never the team to make a big splash at the deadline and receive a lot of coverage at the end of July. This year will be the same, except they will essentially be adding a top tier outfielder two weeks before the trade deadline without losing any of their top prospects. If Marte can come out of the gate playing at the caliber he did the last few seasons, this “trade deadline non-acquisition” could be the boost the Pirates need during the second half of the season and could help them get back into the playoff race.