Ketel Marte Dilemma; Stay or Go?

PHOENIX – In each off-season, teams face a plethora of questions, issues, and challenges. Within this perspective, the coming weeks for the Arizona Diamondbacks remain particularly intriguing.

There are several priorities and decision-makers like Mike Hazen, the team’s general manager, Torey Lovullo, the field manager, and staff members will likely have to wax more creative than in the past. That’s because the Diamondbacks are coming off the second-worst record in franchise history and the prospect for improvement does not appear encouraging.

Given Hazen’s history of eschewing the free-agent market, the Diamondbacks will have to rebuild from within and make critical personnel decisions. Already, the club declined options on outfielder Kole Calhoun and reliever Tyler Clippard.

Because younger players punctuated the lineup in 2021, the direction seems to build from an existing core. The nucleus here might include catcher/outfielder Daulton Varsho, infielders Josh Rojas and Josh Van Meter, outfielder Jake McCarthy, infielder/outfielder Pavin Smith, shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, and pitchers Taylor Widener, Riley Smith, Corbin Martin, and Taylor Clarke.

One “x” factor seems to be Ketel Marte, perhaps one of the few Arizona players who could corner a substantial haul in a potential trade. Traversing between second base and center field over the past few seasons, Marte seems to be a player in limbo. With no defined role, no everyday shortstop as a double-play partner, and no familiar corner outfielders, Marte remains a Minister without Portfolio.

“I don’t care where I play as long as I play,” he said. “I just want to play and contribute to this team.”

A few numbers are telling.

The last season in which Marte was a full-time second baseman was 2018. Here, he appeared in 131 games at second. Dealt to the Diamondbacks during the 2016-17 off-season, Marte appeared also at shortstop, his natural position, in 119 games for Seattle. That was the season before coming to the desert.

Last season, and combating hamstring issues, the 28-year-old Marte participated in only 71 games in center and 20 at second base. Appearing in a total of 91 games, Marte hit .318 with 29 doubles, one triple, 14 homers, and drove in 50 runs. Baseball-Reference projects, for 2022, Marte will bat .299 with 27 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs, and 56 RBIs. That is, if he remains healthy.

The key factor in determining whether Marte stays in the desert could be his contract status. Since being appointed as the Arizona GM after the 2016 season, Hazen has constantly stayed away from signing players to big contracts.

A case in point was Paul Goldschmidt, who was eventually dealt to St. Louis and signed a five-year deal worth $130 million in 2020 with the Cardinals. In Goldschmidt’s last season with Arizona, he earned $11.1 million and with the prospect of a big pay-day, Hazen took his traditional route and shipped Goldschmidt out of the desert.

The same could be for Marte. The native of Nizao, Dominican Republic has one year left on a five-year, $24 million deal signed in 2018. The Diamondbacks have options of $8 million for 2023 and $10 million in 2024. That is, if Hazen wishes to go that way.

Though numbers Marte puts up are impressive, he has been injury-prone over the past few years. That would clearly diminish his value and what he might command in a trade situation.

In return for Marte, the Diamondbacks’ needs are huge. The priority would be pitching and help for a totally revamped bullpen. At this point, Hazen plays his cards close to the vest and never divulges names, possible free-agent signing, discussions surrounding players currently on the 40-man roster, or potential acquisitions through the trade route.

Based on a plethora of needs, Hazen’s personal perspective of trades and the potential signing of marque players remain part an important dialogue for this team desperately trying to escape another guillotine.

ELSEWHERE …

All indications lead to the hiring of veteran pitching coach Brent Strom as the Diamondbacks’ next pitching coach. Coming from the Houston Astros’ organization, where he mentored younger pitchers and created a formidable staff, Strom, at 73-year-old, aided in the development of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and others into perennial winners.

“It’s bittersweet,” Storm told Brian McTaggart, the Astros MLB beat writer. “I’m leaving a tremendous organization, but it’s a fresh start and we’ll see what happens.”

No formal announcement by the Diamondbacks has been made.

comments

Related Articles

Back to top button