Marlins Add Starling Marte Via Diamondbacks Ahead Of Playoff Push
The Marlins, who sit in the thick of the playoff race, made a move on Monday to bolster their outfield by acquiring Starling Marte from the Diamondbacks for a three-player package of LHP Caleb Smith, RHP Humberto Mejia and 22-year-old LHP Julio Frias, who pitched in short-season Batavia in 2019, who was announced on Sept. 20 as the player to be named later.
The deal immediately improves a group that, to date, had been a sore spot.
Miami’s season has obviously been jumbled by a protracted outbreak of coronavirus that forced them out of action from July 26 through Aug. 7 and required a major roster shakeup that meant early big league debuts for plenty of players. Of the 153 big leaguers who have debuted this season, 15 have been Marlins (9.8%).
Some of that group—RHPs Sixto Sanchez and Jorge Guzman and OF Jesus Sanchez—could reasonably have been expected to debut in a normal season. Others, like RHP Humberto Mejia (who moved to the D-backs as part of this deal), LHP Trevor Rogers and indy ball import LHP Brandon Leibrandt, were much more surprising.
Despite all that, the Marlins entered Monday just three games back of the Braves in the NL East and a half-game back of a wild card spot.
This also marks the second straight trade deadline in which the D-backs have nabbed a young, controllable pitcher from the Marlins. Last year, they picked up Zac Gallen as part of a three-way deal.
Starling Marte, OF
The Marlins’ outfield group has been lacking this year—about the only positive production has come from Magneuris Sierra, who is currently on the 10-day injured list—while the rest are either rookies getting their feet wet or players who have underperformed.
Marte instantly becomes the group’s best player. He entered the day hitting .311/.384/.443 with a pair of homers and 14 RBIs, though he has done so without hitting the ball particularly hard. His hard-hit rate and exit velocity are in the 24th and 8th percentile, according to Statcast. He’s a roughly average defender in center field.
Caleb Smith, LHP
Smith has made just one start this year and then was part of the group of Marlins who landed on the 10-day injured list after the team’s outbreak of coronavirus. In 2019, he was one the team’s best pitchers despite allowing an NL-worst 33 homers. Despite being so homer-prone, he was worth 1.4 wins above replacement, per Baseball Reference, and worked to a 10-11, 4.52 mark. Based on repertoire and pitch movement, Statcast compares Smith to Robbie Ray, whom the D-backs dealt earlier on deadline day. Smith is not eligible for free agency until 2024.
Humberto Mejia, RHP
After finishing last season at high Class A, Mejia earned a surprise big league callup to help the Marlins patch the roster holes left by the team’s outbreak of coronavirus. He struck out six in 2.1 innings in his debut on a rainy night in New York, showing an impressive arsenal that fit right in line with a north-south approach to pitching. He uses a low-to-mid-90s fastball at the top of the zone and couples it with a downer curveball in the upper 70s. He also rounds out his arsenal with a slider and changeup. Given his lack of experience, he has predictably been hit hard in his two subsequent starts and allowed eight runs (six earned) in 10 innings.
Julio Frias, LHP
Evaluators familiar with Frias saw a player who matured greatly during the 2019 season. He sits around 94 with his fastball and has touched 97 mph. The pitch carries well through the zone and has excellent riding life. His slider, a future 50-grade offering the 20-to-80 scouting scale, is his best offspeed pitch. He shows feel for a changeup, but the pitch is in its nascent stages. If he reaches his ceiling, he could fit in the back of a rotation or as a late-inning, non-closer reliever.