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2022 Center Field Targets? – Ketel Marte

Two weeks ago I looked at who I think would be best for the Yankees shortstop problem in 2022. I landed on Amed Rosario as the best option. Last week I looked at who I think would be best for the Yankees first base problem in 2022. I landed on Freddie Freeman as the best option.

This week, I look to center field to see if there are any good solutions for the Yankees going forward. Yesterday we looked at a player who played for Team World at the 2015 Futures Game and today we look at one of his teammates: Ketel Marte.

 

Ketel Marte: A Quick Overview

Ketel Marte was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic by the Seattle Mariners for $100,000 in 2010. He started his professional career in 2011 in the foreign rookie leagues and within three years was already playing games at Triple-A. He failed to be ranked as a Top-100 prospect on any yearly major list, but did play for the World’s Team in the 2015 Futures Game. Later that year he made his MLB debut on July 31st and was an MLB mainstay ever since. After a second season in the MLB with the Seattle Mariners in 2016, that November Marte was traded with Taijuan Walker to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura, and Zac Curtis. Since then, he’s been an Arizona Diamondback for the past 5 seasons (2017-2021). Before the 2018 season, he signed a 5-Year/$24 Million contract to buyout his 4 arbitration years along with team/vesting options for 2023 ($10 Million, club) and 2024 ($12 Million, vesting).

In his career, Ketel Marte has hit to a combined .287/.346/.456 (.802 OPS/112 OPS+) extended triple-slash with 715 hits, 70 home runs, and 286 RBI’s in 681 games over parts of 7 seasons. He’s put in considerable time at three positions: second base (1945.1 innings), shortstop (2279.0 innings), and center field (1289.0 innings) while putting up a -13 DRS and a +2.4 UZR in center field. Combined he’s accumulated +18.0 bWAR/+14.9 fWAR.

In 2021, Ketel Marte was having one of his best seasons as he hit to a .318/.377/.532 (.909 OPS/143 OPS+) extended triple-slash with 108 hits, 14 home runs, and 50 RBI’s over 90 games. On defense, he played the 2nd most innings he had in center in his career (567.1) to a -15 DRS and a -2.4 UZR. Combined, he put up a +1.8 bWAR/+2.9 fWAR.

Ketel Marte, as we can see above, has had a lot of injuries since his first MLB season in 2015. The list is as follows:

2015 – Undisclosed minor league injury (out 7 days) [and temporary inactive list for 3 days] 2016 – Sprained left thumb (out about 2 weeks) and Mononucleosis (out about 2.5 weeks) 2017 – [Bereavement list for 5 days) 2018 – Healthy season! 2019 – Healthy season! 2020 – Left wrist inflammation (out 2 weeks) 2021 – Right hamstring strain (out a month and a half) and Strained left hamstring (out about a month)

 

The Case For Ketel Marte:

One of the biggest factors of importance for the Yankees when looking at players in recent years has been about their ability to play multiple positions. Luckily, Ketel Marte is that perfect player for the Yankees.

Now, he’s best suited as a second baseman defensively, but Ketel Marte in his career has put in over 1250 innings at all three of second base, shortstop, and center field. While the Yankees already have DJ LeMahieu set to cover back-up second, third, and first base, a player like Ketel Marte would allow for coverage of the remaining infield position while also being able to hold down the middle of the outfield. That is a very rare combo in a player. The other closest example I can think of would be Mookie Betts, though he played less than 200 innings at second base.

Ketel Marte was also playing at a near career best level in 2021 in between his two injuries this past season. In the last other normal season (2019), Ketel Marte also played and hit his way to 4th in the NL MVP voting. In 2021, he had an OPS+ of 143 and 2019 was an OPS+ of 149. Both of those are incredible numbers and each year he produced to a batting average above .315. On the Yankees, that’d be an incredible boost.

Ketel Marte, if the Yankees were to acquire him before the 2022 season, would be due just $8 Million for the 2022 guaranteed. The Yankees would then have a team option at $10 Million for 2023 and that would set up a vesting option for 2024 at $12 Million if Marte was to reach 1,100 plate appearances between 2022 and 2023, or, 550 PA’ in 2023 alone and without finishing the season on the IL. Either way, a maximum of $30 Million over the next three years for Ketel Marte would be a steal.

A big reason as to why Marte would be a steal at that price is because across the 2022-2024 seasons Marte is going to be playing in his age-28 to age-30 seasons. He’s going to be entering the prime of his career on an extremely favorable contract.

Finally, Ketel Marte has value as a switch-hitter. There’s not much to say about that which hasn’t been said in the past, and while he’s a bit of a better right-handed hitter, he is still very good as a lefty.

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The Simple Pro’s: Utility, 2019/2021 Performance, Contract Obligation, Age/Prime, Switch Hitter

 

The Case Against Ketel Marte:

With the growing concern about Aaron Hicks and his ability to stay on the field, a fellow player who has had 6 visits to the injury/disabled lists over the past 7 seasons does not seem to be the wisest move for the Yankees. And that’s just the first concern on Marte.

Now, one of the big cons against a fellow player that I was personally high on recently that the Yankees could’ve (should’ve) gotten onto the team was that they were too turbulent from season-to-season with their performance. That player just won the NL MVP in 2021 (Bryce Harper). Ketel Marte had a 103 OPS+ in 2018, followed that up with a 149 OPS+ (and Top-4 MVP) season in 2019, followed that up with a 97 OPS+ in 2020, and then a 143 OPS+ season in 2021. He’s been a flip-flop type player in his career. And while this could be due to injuries, that in itself is also a problem.

Ketel Marte is also not going to come easy to the Yankees. Now, I do have an excellent idea (in my opinion) about how the Yankees can address multiple concerns at once with the Diamondbacks and keep a trade for Ketel Marte cheaper in cost. I’ll address this later, but without that idea Ketel Marte is worth +37.3 MTV (according to Baseballtradevalues) and is definitely going to cost a ton.

And on a final note, as indicated above in his recap, Ketel Marte has not been a great defensive center fielder in his career thus far. He’s likely much more suited to be playing in the infield, particularly second base, which is definitely not an area of need for the Yankees. Marte should be able to play center field for the next few years, so it isn’t an immediate concern if the Yankees are willing to deal with some slightly negative defense for the upside of his bat.

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The Simple Con’s: Injury History, Flip-Flop Performance, Acquisition Cost, Poor Defensive Center Fielder

 

Ethan’s Thoughts:

My brilliant idea for the Yankees to get Ketel Marte on the cheap is to attach a negative value player along with him. Now, one of the most pressing concerns for the Yankees is the lack of starting pitching talent. In my mind, the best talent for the Yankees to go after are left-handed pitchers given their home ballpark and the rest of the AL East park dimensions.

Coincidentally, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a left-handed starting pitcher that is of negative value (-35.9 MTV) who is a winner: Madison Bumgarner. Could they attach Marte (+37.3 MTV) with Bumgarner and take a package of a couple lottery prospects to help them reset their books?

Now, BaseballTradeValues.com will say that a deal of that caliber would never be accepted because there aren’t any high-value players going back to the Diamondbacks. However, these types of moves do happen (albeit not often) and given the lack of trying by so many teams in the MLB, this could be a solid framework of a deal to work with.

Now, that would only happen if the Yankees believe in Ketel Marte as a center fielder going forward. Now, I’d be willing to take the worse defense of Marte in CF (especially because of the plus defense from Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo) because I’m willing to believe in the offense.

Marte is not the perfect player for the Yankees as a center field option because he’s not a true center fielder and because of the injury past. However, if I had my choice of options Marte would be #2 behind the player I’ll talk about tomorrow.

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