Reports from earlier today indicated that Starling Marte rejected the Marlins’ offer of a three-year, $30MM contract extension, making it all the more likely that the outfielder would be dealt prior to the July 30 trade deadline. Contract negotiations are now over between the two sides, according to The Miami Herald’s Craig Mish (Twitter links), as Marte didn’t want the talks to become a distraction for him as the second half of the season progresses.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter) adds the detail that the Marlins’ extension offer was greater than three years and $30MM, but regardless, it now seems that the team will focus on dealing Marte. As one might expect, Marte is already drawing interest from multiple suitors, as Heyman writes that the Astros, Phillies, and Yankees are three of the teams who have been in touch with the Marlins about the former All-Star.
Marte would be an upgrade for just about any team, considering his impressive .288/.387/.443 slash line, seven home runs over 249 plate appearances this season (though Statcast hints at some regression). In addition to his bat, the 32-year-old Marte also has 20 steals from 23 chances and he has displayed some impressive glovework in center field.
This is all music to the ears of outfield-needy teams like Houston, Philadelphia, and New York. The Astros have gotten very solid results both offensively and defensively from Myles Straw and Chas McCormick up the middle, but there is no doubt Marte would represent a big upgrade. For the Phillies and Yankees, center field has been a revolving door thanks to injuries.
In terms of contract, Marte is owed around $5.1MM of his original $12.5MM salary for the 2021 season. This adds another wrinkle to the trade market, as Marte’s three known suitors are all very close to exceeding the $210MM Competitive Balance Tax threshold. Marte alone could conceivably be added with a bit of maneuvering under the tax line, but that would eliminate pretty much all available payroll space for further trade needs like pitching.
Throughout the winter and into the season, the Yankees and Astros have in particular made several moves indicating that staying under the tax line (and avoiding an escalating repeater penalty) is a priority, though both Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and Astros GM James Click recently stated that they would go over the CBT line in the right circumstance. The Phils have never exceeded the luxury tax line, but owner John Middleton has said in the past that he would also be willing to make a tax payment for a difference-making addition.
An argument can certainly be made that Marte is such an addition, though it is also possible that he could be acquired in a trade that wouldn’t require any CBT overage. The Marlins could be more willing to eat most or all of Marte’s salary if they were offered higher-caliber prospects, though then it becomes a question of just how much prospect value any of the three teams would want to surrender for a rental player. Marte could also be included as part of a larger trade package that might see multiple players swap clubs, with perhaps a larger contract sent back Miami’s way as some kind of salary offset.
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