SCOTTSDALE – In signing a long-term deal on Tuesday, Ketal Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks seem to procure security on two important levels. Not only is he assured large paychecks in the future, but also represented a core from which the Diamondbacks said they wish to build.
The latter point was driven by Mike Hazen, the team’s general manager, during a Tuesday morning news briefing with reporters at Salt River. Acknowledging his team needs more Ketel Martes, the attempt to solidify the core around a young All-Star and a player whose work ethic and commitment can have a residual effect on his teammates, was on the top of the Diamondbacks food chain.
Negotiations with Marte, who is 28-years-old, and his agent, Hazen reported, were ongoing and several exchanges between the parties transpired prior to the lockout. Once baseball resumed operation in mid-March, talks grew in intensity and culminated with Marte signing a five-year, $78 million deal. The contract calls for the Diamondbacks to pick up options for the 2028 and 2029 seasons. In 2018, Marte signed a three-year deal worth a reported $24 million.
“We have talked about what we need to win and turn back things around,” Hazen said. “You do that with elite players and Ketel is certainly an elite player. We have a trust with Ketel, what he means for our team, and what he can do in the future.”
Two factors might have compromised Marte’s future with Arizona. First, he has been suspectable to injuries over the past few seasons. Marte missed the final weeks of the 2019 season with a back issue. In 2020, a left wrist injury kept him in the dugout and last season, Marte missed half the season with hamstring problems to both legs.
Numbers-wise and coming into the 2022 season, Marte has a lifetime batting average of .287 for parts of seven seasons. He was named to the NL all-star team in 2019 (hit .327, 32 home runs, 92 RBIs) and finished fourth in the league’s MVP balloting for that season.
Still, he had demonstrated his value, at least to Hazen and owner Ken Kendrick, who signs the checks.
“We wanted to continue and go forward with our best players here,” Hazen said. “We need to anchor this team and need to make commitments. That’s for the players who are here and the players will be coming into the clubhouse in the next couple of years.”
Also, there presisted a lingering question as to where Marte might play, defensively. A shortstop by trade, Marte, with the emergence of Nick Ahmed at short, moved to second. When Arizona decision-makers needed a centerfielder, Marte answered the bell and over the past few seasons, vacillated between the infield and the gardens.
Here in spring training, Hazen and Torey Lovullo, the Arizona field manager, have committed Marte to second back, and likely Daulton Varsho could start the season in center field. For now, Marte said he is ready.
“For me, nothing changes,” he said through a Spanish interpreter. “I’m playing second base right now but I’m always available in center and available wherever Torey needs me.”
The long-term deal guarantees Marte a home in the desert and, at the same time, the franchise returns the favor. In opening their checkbook, the Diamondbacks say they made the first of meaningful commitments and that’s a direction Marte acknowledged.
“I felt something like this was approaching,” he said of the long-term deal.” Just wanted to help out my teammates. This is a special moment for me. They now have something I can take with me after baseball. That’s the confidence they have in me.”
Marte arrived in sedona red and black as one of the Hazen’s first transactions. Named the club’s general manager right after the 2016 World Series, Hazen pulled the trigger with Seattle in a deal that sent pitcher Zac Curtis, outfielder Mitch Haniger and infielder Sean Segura to the M’s for pitcher Taijuan Walker and Marte
“Ketel was a critical and important piece of the trade,” Hazen said. “Then, things evolved. Everyone thought the power would come and that happened.”
So did All-Star stature and rewards to an elite, franchise player.