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The Pirates’ leadership overhaul is nearly complete. Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle have been deposed and replaced with Travis Williams, Ben Cherington and… someone else. We’ll probably find out who very soon. It is a new era for the Pirates, and while it is not official, some selling of players from the old era is expected.
One of the Pirates’ most appealing trade chips is Starling Marte. If the Pirates are approaching the end of the road with him, let’s take a moment to appreciate the ride. Marte’s 16.6 wins above average are 14th best among position players in Pirates history, sandwiched between Andy Van Slyke and Jason Kendall. He was an All-Star, and probably should have gone to the midsummer classic two or three more times than he actually did. He won Gold Gloves, stole bases and was a threat in the batter’s box. With the exception of Andrew McCutchen, he has been the best Pirates player of the last 15 years.
The Pirates picked up his 2020 club option earlier in November and they have another one for the 2021 season. That means they do not have to trade him this offseason, but his value will never be this high again. Cherington was hired in large part because of his player development track record. Why not give him as much young talent as possible to work with?
This is also an incredibly thin market for center fielders. There are currently eight free agents who qualify as center fielders. Five had a negative WAR last year. One, Austin Jackson, did not play in the majors in 2019. Jarrod Dyson, 35, is considered the top target after being worth 1.3 WAR last year. Marte is the best option potentially available, and it’s not even close.
So if the Pirates do go forward and try to trade Marte, what could they expect back? Will they get a top 100 prospect or two who can help replenish the farm, or did they wait too long to move him?