Pirates Should Extend Starling Marte – And Here’s a Price Guide

The Pirates should extend Starling Marte. Photo credit: David Hague

The Pirates should extend Starling Marte. Photo credit: David Hague

I was discussing Starling Marte on Twitter this afternoon with Travis Sawchik of the Trib and Charlie of Bucs Dugout, and we got on the topic of extensions. Marte currently has less than a year of service time, and at the end of this season he will have a little over one full year. We all agreed today that Marte should be extended, perhaps as early as yesterday. But the list of offensive players who have received such extensions with less than two years of service time is very limited, so it’s hard to get an idea of what Marte would be worth.

I took a look at all of the offensive players with less than two years of service time who received extensions since 2008. MLBTR’s Extension Tracker was a huge help, and thanks to Charlie for pointing it out to me. Charlie also wrote about this same topic, so check out his thoughts here, which is something I will be doing right after hitting “Publish” on this post.

Before I get started, I’ll add the disclaimer that the Pirates are not talking with Marte, to my knowledge. I’m just saying they should extend him, and should be talking to him.

Paul Goldschmidt – 5 years, $32 M (1 option year, $14.5 M)

Marte and Goldschmidt would be in similar situations from a service time standpoint. Goldschmidt came up for 48 games in 2011, played the entire season in 2012, and was extended before the 2013 season. Goldschmidt’s extension was an actual extension — meaning it didn’t replace his 2013 deal that was already in place. The deal bought out one of his free agent years, and gained control of another with an option year.

Starlin Castro – 7 years, $60 M (1 option year, $16 M)

Castro’s deal wouldn’t really be comparable to Marte. He had 1.150 years of service time, so he was a pretty strong bet to be a Super Two player. Also, he had parts of three seasons in the majors when he signed, with some pretty solid results from the shortstop position. When you consider the shortstop factor, that only further separates Castro’s situation from Marte.

There are some interesting aspects of Castro’s deal that could make it easier to sign Marte. He has escalators in his deal which give him an extra $2 M if he finishes in the top five in the MVP voting twice during his contract. He’d also get an extra $2 M on his option year if that happened.

Carlos Santana – 5 years, $21 M (1 option year)

Santana’s deal only buys out one of his free agent years. He signed it a year before Goldschmidt signed his deal, so perhaps the new money that is arriving in MLB is starting to show up in these extensions.

Jonathan Lucroy – 4 years, $11 M (1 option year, total guaranteed could be worth $13 M if he’s a Super Two player)

This seems like a really good deal, but it also doesn’t buy out any free agent years, which is something you’d want if you’re extending Marte.

Salvador Perez – 5 years, $7 M (3 option years, deal could be worth as much as $26.75 M)

I wouldn’t say Perez is anywhere close to the caliber player that Marte is. Also, the last three on this list have been catchers, and I’m not sure how much that applies to Marte.

Jose Tabata – 6 years, $15 M (3 option years worth $22.5 M combined)

Tabata’s deal was extremely team friendly at the time, mostly because he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh. The total value of the deal would have been 9 years and $37.25 M, although I can’t see his options being exercised at this point. This deal does show the downside for the team. Tabata didn’t look as good as Marte at the time, but the deal looked like it was a potential steal. Now you hear people suggesting that the Pirates designate him for assignment just to see if another team will take his salary.

Denard Span – 5 years, $16.5 M (1 option year, $9 M)

Span isn’t really comparable to Marte, since he was more of a speedy, traditional leadoff guy with poor defense in center at the time of his deal. Still, Span and Tabata show that the $15-16 M range for 5 years was the trend for outfielders in the 2010-2011 time frame.

Ryan Braun – 8 years, $45 M

A big difference between Braun’s deal and the others is that he had no options. Braun gave up two years of free agency, and the Brewers guaranteed that. Without those years, the deal was worth about $23 M in the 0-6 years. That’s a bit higher than Span and Tabata, and I’d say Marte’s value falls closer to Braun than those two.

Evan Longoria – 6 years, $17.5 M (3 option years, Potential for $44 M over nine years)

This move came about a week after only six games in the majors by Longoria. As a result, the Rays got a steal. But the 0-6 years still fell in the same range as Tabata and Span. Considering how long ago this deal was, and that Longoria signed so early, I wouldn’t say it’s applicable to Marte.

Chris Young – 5 years, $28 M (1 option year)

Young’s deal guaranteed one of his free agent years, and had an option for another. His 0-6 years were worth $18 M, with a $1 M signing bonus included.

Troy Tulowitzki – 6 years, $30 M (1 option year, $15 M)

His deal was worth about $21 M for the 0-6 years and bought out control of two free agent years. Like Longoria, I think this one is too far back to apply to Marte.

The Cost For Marte

There have only been 11 of these deals signed in the last six years, which is an average of about two per year. When you consider that the deals from 4-6 years ago don’t really apply to the current economics, the sample size gets even smaller. Rather than looking for a young outfielder who can play strong defense and hit for some power, you’re just looking for any player who was good enough to receive an extension this early. For example, Paul Goldschmidt and Starling Marte are two extremely different players. But as far as their value to the team, and their years of service time, they’re pretty much the same.

I would think Goldschmidt would be the best example of a framework for Marte. And while I said Starlin Castro wasn’t really comparable to Marte from a player perspective (not to mention the Super Two factor), I think the 7/$60 M range would be appropriate for Marte’s total value. It’s similar to what Goldschmidt could receive if his option year is picked up (and if he had another option year for the same amount). Let’s look at the breakdown with Goldschmidt and Marte.

Year: Goldschmidt Salary (Applicable Year for Marte and what he’d make without an extension)

2013: Goldschmidt – $500,000 (2014: Marte – Minimum)

Extension Starts – $500,000 bonus

2014: $1,000,000 (2015 – Minimum)

2015: $3,000,000 (2016 – Arb 1)

2016: $5,750,000 (2017 – Arb 2)

2017: $8,750,000 (2018 – Arb 3)

2018: $11,000,000 (2019 – FA)

2019: $14,500,000 option, $2 M buyout (2020 – FA)

If Marte got the same deal, he’d be making $19 M in service years 3-6. He’d also be getting a guaranteed $11 M in 2019, which would be his first year of free agency. Plus he’d have an option for $14.5 M in 2020, which would be his second year of free agency. You’d like to see the Pirates get one more year added on, maybe with another $14.5 M option and another $2 M buyout.

If Marte signed such a deal, he’d be getting a maximum of $59 M over seven years. That’s an average of about $8.5 M per year, and only $34 M over five years would be guaranteed.

Andrew McCutchen gave up three years of free agency, and received a maximum of seven years and $65 M. That covered the same time span that Goldschmidt’s deal would cover for Marte (assuming Marte signs an actual extension that would add on to his league minimum in 2014). So I’d say that the maximum of 7/$59 for Marte would be appropriate. It’s a risk for the team, but we’ve seen from Andrew McCutchen that such a deal could be an extreme value if Marte continues to show improvements. There have been a lot of Marte/McCutchen comparisons going around. Two years ago I made a loftier comparison for Marte: Roberto Clemente. So yeah, I definitely think Marte will continue to show improvements, and think an extension like this would end up being a huge value for the Pirates.

Here’s the thing about a Marte extension that is different than McCutchen. McCutchen was a first round pick, and received $1.9 M. If he would have shattered his pelvis in year two of his career, he still would have been set for life. Or should have been set for life. Surprisingly that’s never a guarantee. On the other hand, Marte received an $85,000 signing bonus. In 2007. And most of that goes to the buscones. He spent five years in the minors, where players make next to nothing, and only get paid during the season. He was added to the 40-man roster for the 2012 season, making about $32,500 in the minors, and getting the league minimum in his time in the majors. This year he’s making $500,000, which is probably five times his career earnings.

McCutchen already had his big payday, then had all of the other earnings along the way. Right now Marte is at about a third of where McCutchen started, and that’s only at the end of this season. So the security of a guaranteed deal would be more important for Marte than McCutchen, since McCutchen probably had something to fall back on.

Once again, there has been no talk of a Marte extension yet. This is just wishful thinking. But it’s also getting to the point where it’s something the Pirates need to be seriously thinking about, just because this is what small market teams need to do.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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