As those of you reading this probably know, I am a diehard Mets fan. I pay homage to the team in my Twitter handle (go follow @metsfanmax if you haven’t already). My iPhone home screen is Pete Alonso. I have this flag in my bedroom:
You get the idea.
My point is this: it’s fitting that my first post in quite a while would address the Mets’ current offseason moves and plans.
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen is currently in the middle of his first full offseason as an MLB GM. He has made a point of prioritizing two areas of the team: center field and the pitching staff, both starters and relievers. Despite only being about a month into free agency, BVW has already found a band-aid for the Mets’ center field situation.
On December 5th, the Mets traded two minor leaguers, LHP Blake Taylor and OF Kenedy Corona, for CF Jake Marisnick. Taylor was on the Mets’ 40-man roster but might never be a big-league contributor. We are still years away from finding out if Corona is anything. The Mets essentially gave up two wild cards for a year of Jake Marisnick.
Marisnick, to put it diplomatically, is not a very good hitter. He’s a career .227/.280/.380 hitter with a strikeout rate just under 30%. His career wRC+ of 79 makes him 21% worse than league average.
Since debuting in the major leagues in 2013, Marisnick has the fourth-worst batting average, eighth-worst wRC+, and eighth-worst strikeout rate among outfielders with at least 1500 PA (that’s about 200 PA per season).
Basically, he can’t kick it at the dish. He’ll chip in a couple of steals and maybe double digit home runs. All of that is rendered moot because we all know he’s in the lineup for his glove.
Since 2013, Marisnick is ninth in defensive runs saved with 71, and that’s among all 236 outfielders with at least 1000 innings in the outfield over the last seven years. For reference, that’s in the 99.9th percentile, which is pretty good.
It doesn’t just end with DRS. Pick a defensive stat, and Marisnick shows out. Want to use ultimate zone rating? Marisnick is 15th out of 236. UZR/150? Marisnick is 17th out of 236. Outs above average? Marisnick is 9th since Baseball Savant started keeping track in 2016.
In terms of conventional stats, Marisnick has 33 outfield assists since debuting which is tied for 43rd among all 236 outfielders with at least 1000 innings played in the field. Considering that he is just 66th in innings played in that time frame, that’s also pretty good.
Despite all of these facts about Marisnick’s stellar defense, the Mets are still interested in potentially acquiring Starling Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Marte, unlike Marisnick, is quite a good hitter; he has triple-slashed .287/.341/.452 over the course of his eight-year career. He has averaged 19 home runs and 41 steals per 162 games and has played excellent defense in the corners outfield spots. The trouble is that he is actually a below-average defender in center field, so acquiring him to play up the middle would simply not address the Mets’ desire to have a plus defender in center field.
As of right now, the Mets’ other options in CF, aside from Marisnick, are Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. Both Conforto (career -6.7 UZR/150) and Nimmo (-9.9 UZR/150) are worse defenders than Marte (-1.2 UZR/150), but each of them is vastly superior on offense. Conforto has put up better offensive numbers than Marte over the course of his career; Conforto’s triple-slash is .253/.353/.481 and he has hit at least 27 homers in each of the last three seasons. Over Nimmo’s MLB career, he has triple-slashed .254/.387/.440, good for a wRC+ 14% better than Marte’s. Neither Conforto nor Nimmo offers the type of speed that Marte does, but stolen bases are becoming obsolete in today’s power-driven game anyway. Additionally, if Rosario continues to hit as he did in the second half, the Mets already have their leadoff hitter for Opening Day 2020.
Also worth noting is that Marte posted a -9 DRS and -8.3 UZR/150 last season in center field. He’s 31 years old and, typically, players tend to begin their defensive decline around that age, which doesn’t portend good things for Marte’s future defensive contributions.
In all honesty, I have no problem with the Mets acquiring Marte, it’s just a question of what they are going to give up. Marte represents a defensive upgrade over both Conforto and Nimmo (at least for now), and Marisnick is more of a fourth outfielder or defensive replacement than an every day outfielder considering how he handles the bat. Marte is under contract for this season at an incredibly affordable rate of $11.5 million and has a $12.5 million club option that is all but guaranteed to be picked up for 2021. He will be an incredibly valuable piece for any team looking to make a championship run this upcoming season and that team could be the Mets, but it depends on what they are giving up. Some of the names being floated in trade rumors give me pause as to whether this would be a good move for the Amazins.
If the Mets were to acquire Marte, it would make logical sense to part with Brandon Nimmo and even potentially Dominic Smith. Sending the Pirates prospects such as David Peterson or Mark Vientos would be a mistake. Peterson will likely be up this year and could turn into a viable fifth MLB starter. Vientos is years away and the upgrade from Conforto or Nimmo to Marte is simply not worth parting with that talent. Surrendering any minor league pitching would be unwise. Position players outside the team’s top ten prospects would make more sense if a prospect has to be included.
With all of that being said, the best way for a deal to get done would be to send young, controllable MLB talent to Pittsburgh for Marte. Neither Nimmo nor Smith is guaranteed a starting spot on this club come the spring, and if that’s what it takes to land a centerfielder, so be it. It would also have the added benefit of freeing up a 40-man roster spot, and the Pirates could even take on a bad contract such as Jed Lowrie’s to free up some finances so the Mets could go after a reliever. But if this deal gets announced in the next few days or weeks and includes any of the Mets’ top ten prospects, Marte shouldn’t exactly be expecting a warm welcome to Queens.
Header Image Credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI
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