2021-2022 Off-season Trade #1 - Fixing Centerfield

I really wish I was writing a post detailing how Bryan Reynolds could be putting on the pinstripes in 2022, but it's become clear the asking price has skyrocketed to unrealistic proportions. If Yankee G.M. Brian Cashman was able to pull a trade off for Reynolds, I'd be ecstatic, but I'm trying to keep my head out of the clouds and come up with some options that may be actual possibilities. And with that, I turn to another clear upgrade in centerfield - Ketel Marte.

There's a lot to like about Marte, as he's a switch hitter that can play multiple premium defensive positions around the diamond and provide well above average production with the bat. In the last three 162 game MLB seasons he's posted seasons of 102, 149, and 143 OPS+ while playing 1914 innings at 2B, 282 innings at SS, and 1275 innings in CF. Brian Cashman recently expressed the need for "Greater lineup flexibility" after publicly assigning SS as an area of need for the Yankees. Who provides more lineup flexibility than a switch hitter able to play multiple defensive positions that doesn't rely too heavily on power or speed and consistently ranks in the top 10-20% in lowest strikeout percentage? His Statcast chart bleeds bright red in many of the most promising areas - xBA, xSLG, Whiff%, and Exit velocity. There's a lot to like with Marte. The 2020 season is the only real statistical blemish on his record since becoming a full time player, where he put up a slightly below average 97 OPS+ in a year that many big names struggled. Other than that, he's been one of the league's best hitters whenever he's taken the field. He could be an extremely valuable player for a contending team, and unfortunately for him, the Diamondbacks are not that.

Here's what a trade might look like(with values from BBTV):

Yankees get(37.3):

Ketel Marte CF/SS/2B - 37.3

Diamondbacks receive(40.8):

Oswald Peraza SS - 25.5

Everson Pereira OF - 4.8

Clark Schmidt RHP - 6.8

Hayden Wesneski RHP - 3.7

Clint Frazier OF - 0

I've been sitting on this trade for weeks, and must not be too far off, because Josh Diemert completed a trade recently in an off season simulation that's very similar to this. Josh wanted him for his flexibility, I want him to be our everyday centerfielder with the flexibility being an added bonus. I assume the mid level pieces can be interchanged to whoever Arizona would like more, but this blueprint looks to be reasonable. The bottom line is, I'm willing to part with any combination of players in each proposal to get the deal done. As long as the deal doesn't include 2 of the big three, or even Volpe at all right now,...I'm more than fine with it.

The problem is, Arizona thought they were going to be on the fringe of the playoff picture in 2020 and 2021 with various young players being building blocks toward long term contention. They finished in last place both years, while tying the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in all of baseball in 2021. All reports indicate their thinking has not drastically changed, which means they may want to put a "competitive team" out on the field in 2022 again. If they thought they were going to be competitive last year and lost 110 games, what's there team going to look like in 2022? If they move on from Marte, I'd expect them to want to either send Madison Bumgarner's contract with him, or try to obtain some mix of MLB ready players and prospects because they aren't interested in a full rebuild. About 3/4 of their roster is in early arbitration or pre-arbitration and many of those players are relatively highly regarded, so maybe they're just going to play the waiting game and hope they mature. The Diamondbacks did reportedly shop Marte before the trade deadline last year, but no real signification traction in that direction right now at all. I don't even think the D-Backs know what they're going to do at this point? I just hope the Yankees throw some ideas at them, because Marte could be a great fit with the Yankees.

A few quick notes:

1) I know, I know, Clint Frazier might not play, blurry vision, arbitration, etc. He's a throw in here. He has zero value on BBTV and holds none in this trade other than icing on top. The D-Backs need some help in the OF and losing Marte makes that need more apparent. This would provide a change of scenery for Red Thunder and give the Diamondbacks a low risk/high reward option. They most likely won't be spending a ton of money in free agency this year and are waiting to see which young players mature into viable MLB options. Once that picture clears up(no pun intended) they'll have a better gauge as to what positions they'll need to prioritize when making larger financial additions. Clint could work to bridge the gap or if everything works out, be one of those building blocks. If they don't want Clint, insert Miggy, or Odor, or Voit, I really don't care they're icing on the cake and clearing roster space. Any of those players could hold some value to an organization like Arizona because they do not come with a hefty price tag or long term commitment and all have some upside...ok, except Odor.

2) Marte is slated to earn $30M over the next three years assuming the club option is exercised in 2022 and 2023. His luxury tax hit(if there is such a thing in a new CBA) is only $4.8M for 2022. Penciling him in as the starting CF for the next three years lessens the blow of the Aaron Hicks contract as they will average just over $20M/yr combined for the next three seasons. That's a $20M investment for your starting CF and a 4th OF. I can live with that. And if they were to bring in Starling Marte as a free agent it would probably cost about $20M/yr for him alone. Add that to Hicks's $10M and you're spending $30M for the two spots and getting a CF that's 5 years older than Ketel. Financially, this is a no brainer.

3) Ketel's positional flexibility means if Florial, or Dominguez, or any other Yankee prospect plays their way into the Yankee outfield over the next couple of seasons, he can be moved to SS or 2B. He will be insurance against not being able to bring in a SS or Gleyber never regaining form, or Volpe not being ready to push a Seager over to 3B. There's a bunch of options, which is what I believe Cashman was hoping for when he talked of "Greater lineup flexibility".

4) Defensively, I don't think Marte is going to win any awards. Statcast hates him, though I'm not clear what position they're grading him at. Fangraphs shows some wide ranging results depending on the position, but overall his numbers don't appear too bad there. From what I've seen, he can pretty much make the routine plays at all three positions, but not the difficult ones. I could be wrong here, but I'll let John Griffin correct me on this one. He loves that defense stuff.

Bottom Line - If the Yankees can acquire a young player just approaching his prime like Ketel Marte for a package looking anything close to what you see here, they should jump at the opportunity. This is an extremely low risk move with potentially an extremely high reward. I'm getting a little too excited about the possibility of adding players like Matt Olson and Ketel Marte to this Yankee team with one of the big shortstops as well. Can you imagine a Yankee lineup like this?

SS Seager LH

RF Judge RH

1B Olson LH

DH Stanton RH

CF Marte SH


LF Gallo LH

C Sanchez RH

2B/3B Torres/Urshela

DJ/Gleyber/Gio would essentially man two positions with DJ getting extra play at 1B on Olson's days off and Gio getting extra time at SS on Seager's days off. That looks like a Bronx Bomber lineup, unfortunately I don't think it'll happen. If the Yankees get Olson, I don't think they'll be willing to part with another of the top 3 prospects to get Marte and vice versa. I would, but if Brian Cashman somehow releases his bear hug grip on one of the three big prospects, he won't let one of the other's go for a long time. So, I believe the Olson/Marte decision falls to an either/or argument. I believe CF is the bigger need than 1B, Marte's flexibility would be an added bonus, and they still should sign one of the available SS's either way.

What do you think? Does Ketel Marte help fill the CF hole? Should he be brought in to fill the SS hole instead? Or if it comes down to Olson or Marte, you'd just rather have Olson?

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