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Baseball Daily Dose

Deeper Dive: Starling Marte to the Mets

by Christopher Crawford
Updated On: December 24, 2021, 11:31 am ET

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The Mets didn’t just sign the top arm on the market in Max Scherzer, they also revamped their lineup, and chief among those new bats was the top center fielder on the market in Starling Marte.

For those that don’t remember as they deal with the lockout blues, Marte signed a four-year, $78 million contract to join the Mets at the end of November. The outfielder will get $14.5 million for the 2022 campaign with a $5 million signing bonus, and then get $19.5 million for 2023-2025. Unlike many of the other deals that happened before the work stoppage, this deal does not contain a buyout and doesn’t appear to have any trade protection.

So what are the Mets -- and potentially fantasy managers -- getting in Marte? Well, a really good baseball player. The 33-year-old finished 2021 with a slash of .310/.383/.458 with 12 home runs and 47 stolen bases across 526 plate appearances for the Marlins and Athletics. He was particularly impressive with his wheels after his trade from Miami to Oakland for Jesus Luzardo, as he stole a whopping 25 bases in 56 games on 27 attempts while hitting .316. 

The metrics suggest that Marte earned those numbers, as well. For the most part, anyway. While he ranked below average in his percentage of barrels and in hard hit percentage, he still finished in the 83rd percentile in expected batting average at .277, and a strong .364 expected weighted on-base average. For those not into the numbers, Marte makes consistent contact, uses the entire field, and hits the ball hard enough to expect him to put up a decent average. 

More importantly for fantasy purposes, he’s a well above-average runner who gets excellent jumps on the bases, so the steals should keep coming. The Mets didn’t run much last year -- ranking tied for 24th with 54 steals total on the season -- but New York isn’t going to keep a player like him from having the green light. He should hit at or near the top of the lineup, and players like Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso will get the chance to drive the right-handed hitter in quite often.

Those are the positives, but there are some potential negatives here. Marte no longer has above-average power, and expecting him to hit more than 15 homers is probably expecting too much. Because he doesn’t drive the baseball gap-to-gap, he’s going to need to rely on some BABIP (batting average balls in play) luck in order to hit for a high average, and his lack of patience at the plate -- Marte had a career high of 43 walks last season -- means the on-base percentage won’t compensate. 

There’s also the concern about how players of Marte’s skillset have aged historically. For every Rickey Henderson, there are many more players like Michael Bourn. The 10-year veteran is a more complete player than the Bourns -- with all due respect to them -- but there’s no denying that speed is a large part of his game, and at some point, that speed is going to go away.

Simply put, there’s risk with Marte because of the way he gains fantasy value, and at some point -- barring a significant change in approach in terms of patience or hitting for power -- he’s going to become a fantasy afterthought. That being said, it shouldn’t be in 2021, and Marte is worth consideration in the first three rounds as a player who can provide 40 steals, score plenty of runs and also help more than hurt in the average category.

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Quick Hits: Dodgers and OF/1B Cody Bellinger avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $17 million contract … Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports that "there remains mutual interest" between the Cubs and free agent shortstop Carlos Correa … Athletics hired Mark Kotsay as manager … Padres signed INF Domingo Leyba to a minor league contract … Sung-Bum Na has signed a six-year, $12.6 million contract with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization. Na was posted by the NC Dinos last offseason, but wound up failing to reach an agreement with a major-league team … Mets signed OF Daniel Palka to a minor league contract … Tigers first base coach Kimera Bartee passed away Monday at the age of 49 … Yankees signed C David Freitas to a minor league contract … Dan Straily will not return to the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization. Straily cannot return by rule, as the Giants have signed two international players in Glenn Sparkman and Charlie Barnes, respectively.

Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for NBC Sports EDGE and also appears on the Circling the Bases Podcast.