(AUDACY) The Marlins, a team that spent money once -- in 2012, to disastrous results -- and decided never to make that mistake again, recently offered a three-year extension to outfielder Starling Marte, a one-time All-Star and MLB’s fourth-leading base-stealer in 2021 with 19 thefts on 22 attempts. Miami’s willingness to spend any amount of money took many by surprise, though former MLB executive David Samson, who has parlayed his signature blunt cynicism into a second career as a podcast host for CBS Sports, saw right through that proposal, quickly dismissing it as an empty gesture.
“They’re lying to you right now, pretending that they want to sign him to a long-term deal,” warned Samson, who was ousted from his position as Marlins team president at the onset of the new Derek Jeter regime in 2017. “Here’s how you do it. It’s a very quick five-step plan. One, you leak the fact that you have offered an impending free agent a long-term deal. Two, you leak the terms of the offer, which, to the real world, sounds like, ‘My god, you offered Starling Marte three years, $30 million. That’s amazing!’ Because you have to offer enough that there’s some credibility among people who aren’t in the business. Three, you have to guarantee that what you offered is below market value and that he’s not going to take it, because it’s your worst nightmare if he does. Four, he rejects it. Five, you publicly say he rejected it to turn public favor against him so you can trade him at the deadline, which is exactly what you were trying to do anyway.”
Samson must have been looking through a crystal ball when he made those comments on "The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz" earlier in July, because the Marlins have followed his blueprint to a T, lowballing Marte ahead of the trade deadline on July. The Marlins’ reluctance to sign Marte long-term is understandable — he doesn’t hit for much power (only seven homers in 207 at-bats this season) and at 32, it’s debatable whether he's worth building around.
Coming out of the All-Star break, Marte has been red-hot, going 8-for-16 with a homer, four RBI and two steals. He also boasts 10 years of valuable MLB experience at one of the sport’s most demanding positions. Given his pedigree and coveted skill set as a plus outfield defender with elite wheels and arguably more pop than he’s shown us this year (he has cleared the 20-homer plateau twice in his career, with 2019 the most recent occurrence), Marlins general manager Kim Ng’s phone should be ringing off the hook with offers from contending teams looking for a proven two-hole hitter who could also be a leadoff hitter. With the trade deadline looming July 30, here are five teams that have either already been linked to Marte or should pursue him based on need.
Whether Miami is willing to conduct business with a team in its own division remains to be seen, and the Braves and Marlins certainly aren’t the best of pals right now following a recent on-field feud. Despite a paltry 45-47 record, the Braves remain very much alive in the NL East, which would presumably be their only path to the postseason with the Dodgers and Padres running away with the NL wild-card spots. Atlanta has been unusually aggressive lately, bolstering its roster with the additions of one-time All-Star outfielder Joc Pederson and former Athletics and Diamondbacks catcher Stephen Vogt ahead of the deadline. Perhaps the Braves feel they adequately addressed their outfield need with Pederson, though with Ronald Acuna done for the year and Marcell Ozuna likely looking at a lengthy suspension following his recent arrest on domestic violence charges, Atlanta will take whatever help it can get at the position.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are cruising right now with no real competitors in the AL Central, which they lead by eight games over the Indians entering play Monday. They're also getting healthier with outfielder/designated hitter Eloy Jimenez nearing a return from a torn pectoral muscle that he suffered in March and center fielder Luis Robert (hip) also working his way back. Even with reinforcements coming, Chicago could perhaps use another outfield piece. Though he’s been serviceable in Jimenez’s absence, rookie Andrew Vaughn is a first baseman by trade and has looked like it at times this season, grading among the league’s worst defensive outfielders (41st out of 50 qualified outfielders in defensive runs saved). Outside of shortstop Tim Anderson and outfielder Billy Hamilton, the White Sox have just 16 stolen bases in 26 attempts, so Marte -- who has long thrived as a base-stealer with only Trea Turner, Hamilton and Jonathan Villar swiping more bags since 2016 -- would be an instant improvement in that regard.
To the disgust of many, the Astros are well-positioned to make another deep postseason run, owning the AL’s second-best record behind only the White Sox, who lead them by a single game for the top seed. While the Astros aren’t exactly hurting for outfield production — their outfielders lead MLB in combined batting average (.274) and trail only the Reds, Nationals, Dodgers and Braves in OPS (.766) — Marte would still be a smart get for a team thinking World Series or bust. The Astros don’t have much speed on the basepaths these days, as they’re tied with the Angels for 20th out of the 30 MLB teams in steals, a shortcoming that could easily be alleviated with Marte’s presence. In Houston, the rangy Marte would further solidify an outfield defense many would already consider among the league’s best. Houston is second behind Tampa Bay in defensive runs saved.
New York Yankees
New York has admittedly played much better baseball of late, winning seven of 10 since bottoming out at 41-41. There’s obviously still plenty of work to be done on both the wild-card (3.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics) and division fronts (seven out in the AL East), but it’s conceivable the Yankees could make a late playoff push, granted better injury luck and perhaps an upgrade or two at the deadline. Marte wouldn’t solve the Yankees’ frankly dire need for a left-handed bat, but he’d be a welcome addition to an injury-depleted outfield currently trotting out the likes of journeymen Greg Allen and Ryan LaMarre. The Bombers are in such rough shape that designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton may be forced to man one of the corner outfield spots when they host the Phillies later this week. Remarkably, Marte has only three fewer steals than the Yankees’ entire team this season (a league-worst 22).
Center field has been a revolving door for the Phillies with Travis Jankowski, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley, Luke Williams, former No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak and Matt Vierling all seeing starts there in 2021. When healthy, Herrera has been the best of that relatively lackluster bunch, though he’s still hitting just .241 and. While division rivals typically don’t engage each other in trade discussions, the Marlins and Phillies have collaborated before, including two years ago when Miami dealt All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia in exchange for catcher Jorge Alfaro and highly-regarded pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez. As recently as a few weeks ago, it appeared Philadelphia would be sellers at the deadline, but after closing the gap to two games in an up-for-grabs division, the surging Phillies are now gunning for the NL East -- hence their reported interest in Marte.