Oakland Acquires Starling Marte From The Marlins In Exchange For Jesús Luzardo
Marte, 32, is hitting .305/.405/.451 with 22 steals in 64 games with the Marlins this season while also playing an above-average center field. It’s an aggressive move by the A’s—Marte will be a free agent this winter and is still owed about $4 million the rest of the season. The Marlins are also sending cash back to Oakland to offset that cost, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Marte solidifies an A’s outfield mix that has dealt with injuries at the corners all season. Marte himself has missed time this year due to a fractured rib, too, but has been productive when healthy. His 3.3 fWAR ranks fourth among all center fielders with at least 150 plate appearances.
Luzardo was twice a Top 10 prospect in baseball before exhausting prospect eligibility last season. The 23-year-old was expected to be a key part of Oakland’s rotation this year but struggled mightily, pitching to a 6.87 ERA in 13 appearances, and missed time after breaking the pinkie on his pitching hand while playing video games in early May. Oakland utilized Luzardo out of the bullpen upon his return on May 30 and it didn’t go well, as he pitched to a 9.90 ERA in 10 innings before his demotion to Triple-A Las vegas, where he’s pitched in the starting rotation.
Wednesday’s trade further signals Oakland’s willingness to contend this year despite being six games out of first place in the AL West. The A’s also acquired lefty reliever Andrew Chafin from the Cubs this week. In both trades the A’s appeared willing to pay a high price to do so as they aim to remain competitive with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman's contract situations looming in the not-so-distant future.
They dealt a pair of top-20 prospects (Greg Deichmann, Daniel Palencia) for Chafin, and one of baseball’s better recent pitching prospects for Marte as a rental. Oakland wasn't dealing from a particular strength, either. The A's ranked among baseball's worst farm systems entering 2021. It's fair to wonder if this represents
Starling Marte, OF
Marte is quietly in the midst of one of the finer offensive seasons of his career, which includes an all-star nod in 2016 while with the Pirates. His 140 wRC+ mark is the best of his career so far and among the top marks by center fielders. Marte’s 11.6% walk rate is easily the best of his career and his chase percentage (28.1%) and overall swing percentage (47.5%) represent career lows. The two-time Gold Glover is 10th in Statcast’s Outs Above Average in center field. The A’s could conceivably install Marte in center field and shift Ramon Laureano to right field, creating an impressive trio of Mark Canha in left, Marte and Laureano. Oakland hasn't gotten much production out right field this year, and today's move figures to cut into Stephen Piscotty's playing time. Marte’s ability to make contact and speed (Laureano currently leads the A’s with 11 steals) adds a much-needed element to Oakland’s offense.
Jesus Luzardo, LHP
It wasn’t long ago that Luzardo ranked as baseball’s No. 9 overall prospect and the top prospect in Oakland’s system. He threw 59 innings a year ago, pitching to a 4.12 ERA in 12 outings, but the wheels came off this year. Luzardo allowed 11 homers in 38 IP in the big leagues and has pitched out of Triple-A Las Vegas’ rotation for the last month, struggling at times there, too. Luzardo has battled command issues for most of 2021 and his fastball got crushed in the big leagues to the tune of a .784 slugging percentage. Luzardo’s pitch mix remains intact—he features a mid-90s four-seamer, sinker, curveball and changeup—and at his best he can confidently work his sinker to both sides of the plate while utilizing the above-average curveball and changeup. Now it's up to the Marlins' pitching development program to help him regain that form more consistently. Miami can tout gains from several young arms recently, including Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers in the big leagues, and Jake Eder in the minors.