The Marte Partay era has ended in Pittsburgh. New GM Ben Cherington made a big splash after weeks of dormancy and ushered in the rebuild by trading off the second to last remaining member of the 2015 playoff team for a couple of very young prospects with oodles of upside, Brennan Malone and Liover Peguero. Starling Marte‘s departure to the Arizona desert leaves a gaping hole in Pittsburgh’s center field for the 2020 season with no immediate heir to the position. The Pirates have plenty of future center field options (Oliva, Swaggerty, Dixon) in the minor leagues, but none who are ready to break camp with the big league club out of Spring Training.
The immediate reaction by some in the prospect industry and the baseball Twittersphere was to simply hand the job over to 2019 Arizona Fall League wonderkid Jared Oliva and consider the question of who will take over the North Side Notch answered. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to view the Marte trade as a statement of confidence in Oliva’s future – a statement that would undoubtedly send Jared Oliva dynasty shares rocketing up prospect lists – it is more about turning over the big league club in service of the rebuild than it is about opening up a path to playing time for Oliva. Additionally, with the rebuild bell ringing out over the three rivers, the front office has no good reason to rush Oliva to Pittsburgh before he has shown the ability to perform at a high level in AAA Indianapolis.
Pittsburgh has several warm bodies to run out into the outfield to try and find a stopgap between now and…some time in the future when the Pirates challenge for a playoff spot again. When Starling Marte lost time due to injury at the end of the 2019 season the Pirates had Bryan Reynolds slide over to cover center field, something that Reynolds likely shouldn’t continue doing long term. Barring something wild happening this Spring that changes the plan, Reynolds will likely remain in center field while the Pirates try out players like Jason Martin, Will Craig, Kevin Kramer, Jose Osuna, Guillermo Heredia, and Socrates Brito in left field. None of these options are good, but all of them will likely get a shot to play left field before the Pirates are willing to start the service time clock on Oliva, especially if Oliva catches a cold streak out of the gate.
The recent rumors about the Pirates bringing in a player like Cameron Maybin or Billy Hamilton would seem to support the idea that the front office will hold Oliva back as long as they can make the argument for doing so. All things considered, the Marte trade is a good thing for Oliva owners everywhere, but we all need to pump the brakes a bit and realize that the Pirates are going to act in the best interest of the organization and do everything they can to financially control their promising players for as long as possible.
🚨 EMERGENCY @InThisLeaguePod POD 🚨
🐍 STARLING MARTE TRADED TO @Dbacks 🐍
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) January 27, 2020