Signing Starling Marte to a free agent contract will not be the Blue Jays plan A or plan B but if the Jays initial off season plans do not come to fruition they could pivot to the free agent centre fielder to improve the team.
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It is likely that the Blue Jays will try to improve their pitching staff by signing Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Justin Verlander or another big name starting pitcher. They will also likely try to fill their infield need by re-signing Marcus Semien, Kris Bryant or trading for the likes of Matt Chapman or Jose Ramirez. That being said there are 29 other teams that will have a say in these matters and the Jays front office may need to pivot to other options and Starling Marte may be a viable one.
Marte is a very good offensive outfielder with a career 162 game slash line of .289 / .346 / .451 with 18 home runs and 42 stolen bases (as per Baseball Reference). He would be an ideal lead off or number two hitter on a playoff team. With the Jays he may best fit as a offensive number nine hitter setting the table for Springer and Guerrero Jr.
Adding an outfielder of Matre’s caliber would allow the Jays to trade a corner outfielder to upgrade their starting pitching. One potential partner for such a trade is the Miami Marlins who have a surplus of starting pitching and are in need of an offensive outfielder. The Jays may be able to build a package around Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (and maybe Alejandro Kirk) to land the likes of Sandy Alcantara who would be a front line starting pitcher the Jays need should they lose Ray (and / or Steven Matz).
Such a scenario would diversify the team offence by adding more on base percentage and stolen bases while subtracting some power which the team has in droves. The stolen base tool will be particularly important in the playoffs when facing better pitching in general. It will also improve the outfield defence substantially, notwithstanding Gurriel Jr. somehow being a Gold Glove finalist. Adding Marte, who plays a good centre field also reduces the dependency on Randal Grichuk as a backup to George Springer, allowing the Jays to replace him with a more offensively versatile fourth outfielder.
A final positive to this move is that it also indirectly helps the minor league system, and thus the long term sustainability of the current playoff window. The Jays will not have to give up a draft pick by signing Marte, nor will they have to sign a starting pitcher tied to draft pick compensation. This will give them two additional draft picks for losing Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien while not giving up any themselves. In addition the Marte signing creates an outfield surplus to trade from so they do not have to give up much in the way of minor league players to acquire the starting pitcher they need.
From a financial perspective Baseball Trade Rumors estimate a four year $80 Million contract for Marte which will be many tens of millions less than some of the other names the Jays are rumoured to be ‘in on’. In addition, trading for Alcantara or other similar arbitration eligible pitcher does not necessitate the Jays taking on a risky long term contract for a starting pitcher via free agency. So, while signing Starling Marte is likely not the Blue Jays preferred course of action at this point in the off season it could be a viable alternative should they not be able to bring some of their other targets across the plate.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Jason C MacDonald has been a Blue Jays fan since the late 1980’s. His lifelong passion for Baseball and the Blue Jays has recently led him to start writing at JFtC. When not working at his day job or driving his two teenage sons to their sporting events Jason is usually reading, listening, watching or now writing about baseball.