Starling Marte

The Pirates Could Get a Huge Value From Starling Marte’s Extension

The Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to an extension with Starling Marte today, putting the outfielder under team control through the 2021 season. The extension was for six years and $31 M, with two option years. Specific details about the yearly salaries and the option years are unknown. However, you don’t need to see those details to know that this has the potential to be a huge value for the Pirates.

To put this deal in perspective, the Pirates extended Andrew McCutchen for six years plus one option year. McCutchen had two years of service time when he signed the deal, so like Marte, it bought out control of his first three free agent years. The maximum amount of the deal, including the option year, would be seven years and $65 M.

To scale Marte’s deal to match McCutchen’s deal, you’d have to remove the 2014 season, along with half a million dollars. That would make it a five-year, $30.5 M deal with two option years. Again, we don’t know what those option years are, but they’d have to total $34.5 M to match McCutchen’s value.

McCutchen’s deal is seen as a massive value, in part because he almost immediately became an MVP candidate. He had a 5.4 WAR the year before signing his extension. The following season he posted a 6.7 WAR. This past year, McCutchen won the MVP award with an 8.2 WAR.

As for Marte, he had a 4.6 WAR in his first full season in baseball. By comparison, McCutchen had a 3.4 WAR in his first full season. McCutchen was one year younger than Marte, so if we look at comparable years by age, you’ve got a 4.6 WAR for Marte and a 5.4 WAR for McCutchen.

Marte and McCutchen aren’t the same players. They have totally different skills that lead to their overall values. But from a value standpoint, they both are impact players. Marte might not reach the MVP levels that McCutchen is seeing, but he gets a lot of value from the speed, base running, and defensive aspects of his game. Those are skills that don’t project to decline during the life of this deal. For that reason, you can expect Marte to continue producing at or above the value we saw from him during the 2013 season.

By my estimates, if Marte went year to year with the Pirates, and maintained his 4.6 WAR per year, he’d be in line to make $26.4 M over the next five seasons. The Pirates are getting the next six seasons for $31 M. If he became a free agent after the 2018 season, which he was set to do before this extension, then a 4.6 WAR would put him in line for a $21 M salary per year on the open market. That makes the life of this deal worth $89.7 M for Marte if he would have gone year to year and entered free agency as soon as possible. Even with the option years, I don’t think Marte is getting close to just under $90 M.

If Marte improves his game, just like McCutchen did, then the Pirates are getting an even better deal. If he becomes a six win player, then his alternate salary would be worth $116 M by going year to year and entering free agency after the 2018 season. Keep in mind that he posted his 4.6 WAR while missing a month. A healthy season at that pace puts him at a 5.4 WAR, which was the same level McCutchen had in his age 24 season.

But getting a value is expected with these types of extensions. Teams get a value for taking on risk. Players give up money for the security of a guaranteed contract. And if you want to talk about a player who is an injury risk, then Starling Marte certainly fits the bill.

Last year, Marte was hit by a pitch 24 times. Only Shin-Soo Choo had more, with 26. This wasn’t a one year deal for Marte. He was hit by 13 pitches in 2012, and 11 in 2011. In 2010 he was hit with 15 pitches in half a season, and the reason he only played half a season was because he broke his hamate after — you guessed it — getting hit by a pitch.

Marte is also an all out player who plays hard on the field, runs hard on the bases, and slides head first into the bases. That last point cost Marte a month during the 2013 season, after he slid head first into third base, and had his hand stepped on. The Pirates have pretty much accepted that Marte isn’t going to change his approach to the game, and will continue sliding head first into the bag. For that reason, they’ve made the protective “oven mitt” a permanent thing, to avoid future injuries.

Starling Marte wearing his protective "oven mitt".

Starling Marte wearing his protective “oven mitt”.

We could sit here and dream about Marte maintaining his 4.6 WAR, and possibly improving on those numbers. However, we don’t know if that’s going to happen. We could also talk about how Marte is an injury risk, meaning there could be a chance that he doesn’t maintain this current progression, and also a risk that he could decline or miss entire seasons. Once again, that’s not guaranteed either.

What we do know about Marte is that he was a 4.6 WAR player in his first full season in the majors at the age of 24, and that included missing a month with an injury. He’s getting $31 M guaranteed over the next six years. If he went year-to-year, he’d need to be a 3.0 WAR player per year to reach that value, or put up 18 wins over the next six seasons. Considering he just fell shy of five wins in a single season, I’d say there’s a good chance that Marte exceeds that total and brings a lot of value to the Pirates in this deal. He might miss some time in the process, but the time in which he is healthy will make up for that.

We only know the surface details at this point — six years, $31 M, plus two option years. Taking that with what we know about Marte and his value, it’s easy to see how the Pirates made a wise investment with this move.

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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, 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.

Pirates and Starling Marte Agree to Six-Year Deal

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  • Mike C.

    Finally something the fans have been screaming for. A great smart value deal. And no, this isn’t Tabata 2.0.
    I’m Happy for the team and happy for Marte.
    Now just sign up Polanco long term longoria style.
    I don’t care that he’s unproven and haven’t played a game of mlb ball. Do it. Longoria. nuff said.

    • lonleylibertarian


      Exactly – what do they have to lose – I would bring Polanco north – put him in RF and if he is batting .275+ and has 15 SB and 5-8 HR by the all star break sit down with him and do this sort of deal – Longoria worked out well for the Rays.

      Why HOPE that Snider or Tabata will not embarrass the team when you really only see them as placeholders until Polanco arrives.

      • meatygettingsaucy

        Because Longoria is one case that worked out compared to many, many more that haven’t. What if Polanco comes up and struggles in his first two months? Then we look pretty stupid having not waited to bring him up, would have lost a year of service, and probably have hampered his development by having him start in RF after having a total of 9 AB’s at AA. Be patient, he’s coming, and so is Taillon.

        • ted_sheedy

          What’s an example of a Longoria-style extension which didn’t work out? Not challenging you, but I can’t think of many guys who have gotten such a contract of the top of my head.

    • stickyweb

      I posted this on the other thread too, but what the heck, Tim pays by the comment right?

      Longoria was on a different planet than Polanco is, plus had more than double the ABs in the high minors. I love Polanco, but I’d also love to see him produce more and more consistently.

      Saying Polanco is the same as Longoria is basically equivalent to saying Josh Bell is the same as Polanco.

  • Bonds Top Hand

    NH did a great job on this extension from a value standpoint. Look at what the Braves paid to Simmons and Delgado. And considering Marte put up almost 5 WAR, and Trout (granted he is almost a 10 WAR player) is asking for upwards of 200 million or 25 million per year. And we are getting almost 14 WAR for around 12 million per year is smart baseball.

    • Bonds Top Hand

      The 14 WAR is between Cutch and Marte combined, and their salaries combined. Wasn’t too clear on that in my other post…

  • KauaiCoffee

    Marte will produce $31 million in value just with his defense alone. Even if he regresses significantly as a hitter (which I expect to be the case), he will be a value at $5 million AAV. This is a good deal for the Bucs, and it provides an immediate, substantial raise for Starling. Everybody wins.

    Now for Greg Polanco. I recommend offering him a 7-year, $35 million deal. Same situation – immediate raise for Greg, and he would be worth it just with his defense.

  • glassers

    Very happy to see this get done , deal seems to be fair for both sides .

  • jg941

    Tim, with the market value of WAR now pushing $6 mil, I think you may be under-valuing what Marte’s market value would truly be if he went year-to-year.

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