On August 31, the Marlins struck a deal that only confirmed how badly they wanted a playoff berth this year. They acquired veteran outfielder Starling Marte from the Diamondbacks and sent Humberto Mejía, Caleb Smith and minor leaguer Julio Frias to Arizona. But after almost a month, how has that transaction turned out for the Fish?
Marte has been a valuable addition since the very beginning. On September 1, Miami beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, thanks to his solo shot in the eighth inning.
That was the first but far from the only example of his positive offensive impact so far this month. According to FanGraphs, the 31-year-old Dominican has been the sixth-best clutch hitter among all qualifiers in the Major Leagues since the trade (0.75 on a scale where 1.00 represents unstoppable and -1.00 is the ultimate choker). He’s behind Alec Bohm, Mike Moustakas, Paul DeJong, Ryan Mountcastle, and Jedd Gyorko. However, Marte might have vaulted to the top of the rankings if his eighth-inning line drive Monday night made it through the infield (it had an expected batting average of .740, per Baseball Savant).
Among Marlins hitters, Marte ranks fourth in runs batted in with runners in scoring position throughout September (7). That certainly is far from Brian Anderson’s 15 and Jorge Alfaro’s 11, but you gotta take a deeper look to appreciate his value. In fact, Starling has five ribbies with runners in scoring position and high-leverage situations—the only Marlin with more than two is Alfaro, with four.
Six of Marte’s 22 hits as a Fish have produced either the tying or the go-ahead runs for the Marlins. That number includes three that were translated into victories.
Since he came to Miami, Marte owns a .261/.293/.432 slash line and ranks second in games played (23), hits (23), home runs (3), and runs batted in (12), while leading in doubles (6) and stolen bases (5).
Shortly after the season ends, the Marlins must make a decision regarding the veteran’s future. He carries a $12.5M club option for 2021 ($1M buyout). Exercising it would make him the most expensive player on their roster, plus Corey Dickerson ($9.5M) is still under contract next year, and various prospects from Monte Harrison and Jesús Sánchez to JJ Bleday and Jerar Encarnación will be competing for outfield opportunities.
But you never know. If Marte continues helping the Marlins in a big way during their push for a playoff berth, retaining him could become the obvious move.