Phillies interested in Starling Marte, but is he the right fit in CF?

While they don’t have a TON of money to spend, the Phillies should be active this offseason. With the poor results of last year’s season, the team has a number of holes they could attack.

A few days ago, Dave Dombrowski was asked where the areas of focus would be this coming offseason. His response was a centerfielder, a left fielder, and a closer. The expectation is that the Phillies want a lead-off hitter, a middle of the order bat to protect Bryce, and pitching. Which makes Jon Heyman’s report from last week make complete sense.

Starling Marte easily checks multiple boxes that were missing from the 2021 Phillies roster. He has been one of the more consistent hitters in recent years, with the numbers to prove it. He is a good center fielder who is more than capable of handling the leadoff spot, in part thanks to his plus speed. Due to that speed, Marte has an above average ability to steal bases, with 296 careers steals in his 10-year career.

There is absolutely no question that Marte would improve the Phillies. He can be a dynamic player at times, exactly what this team has been lacking recently, outside of Harper. This offense is in desperate need a true table-setter at the top of the lineup. Marte certainly offers that.

However, a few pieces of info are stopping me from completely buying in on the Marte to the Phillies.

The expected contract that Marte is going to receive seems like a lot for a 33-year-old centerfielder. MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Marte would get a 4 year/$80MM this offseason. For starters, the length of that deal is reminiscent of the deal they gave Andrew McCutchen in 2019.

A four-year deal for an aging outfielder whose speed is one of their big assets just doesn’t seem smart. For instance, Marte is clearly in the backend of his career. When he begins to break down, as it tends to happen with speedsters, it will happen quickly. Most of his value to the Phillies comes in his ability to play centerfield/lead off.

Realistically, he only has about one to two years left being able to do both. I don’t want to give a guy a deal when he can only hold up his end of it for half the duration. With Bryce Harper’s clock ticking, the Phillies cannot afford to waste money. If Marte cannot handle centerfield for the duration of the deal, then it becomes a waste of resources.

Additionally, Marte is not the best fit for a leadoff hitter. While he did finish this season with an OBP of .383, his batting average was .310. In comparison, Mark Canha, another free agent CF, hit just .231, but had an OBP of .358. As Marte’s hit tool starts to deteriorate, his OBP will also decrease. The last thing this team needs is to spend $20MM on someone that gives Odubel Herrera type output (Marte and Herrera have rather similar batted ball stats).

To me, the answer to the Phillies’ problems in CF were always going to come via trade. I like Marte as a player, but I don’t think his timeline matches up ideally with what the Phillies’ one should be. As I said, he would absolutely improve the team, but when he starts to decline, it will more than likely come fast.

It could come at year four of a potential deal, which makes all of my doubts null and void. However, he’ll be 35 half way through the deal. If it happens even half way through, the Phillies are paying $20MM for an average corner outfielder.

Not the ideal way of allocating resources for a team who has underperformed a lot lately.

While he is not the same type of impact, signing someone like Canha to roam center and taking the saving and reallocate them into other holes, like the bullpen.

I’m sure Marte will help any team that he joins, but I don’t think his fit with the Phillies is as seamless as people think. With recent memory in mind, I would rather avoid taking on the type of risk he brings.

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