Most of the focus on any off-season moves for the Royals has been in supplementing the pitching staff, but the offense finished with the third-fewest runs scored in the American League. The Royals may be counting on a bounceback performance from Hunter Dozier plus offensive help from top prospects Bobby Witt, Jr., Nick Pratto, and MJ Melendez. However they could look outside the organization to upgrade the lineup, and free agent outfielder Starling Marte could be a good fit.
Marte spent the first eight years of his career with the Pirates as a high-average speedster with solid power in left field. He won two Gold Gloves at that position and was an All-Star in 2016. The Diamondbacks acquired him in a trade in 2020 and moved him to centerfield, where he played adequately. They shipped him to Miami mid-season when the Marlins found themselves unexpectedly fighting for a playoff spot. They moved him on to Oakland this summer for pitcher Jesus Luzardo when their playoff push did not materialize.
The right-handed hiting outfielder enjoyed his best season this year, hitting .310/.383/.458 with 12 home runs in 120 games between the Marlins and Athletics. His 47 stolen bases tied a career high and were the most by any big leaguer this year, and he led all players in Baserunning Runs.
Marte has above-average contact skills and while he may not walk much, he doesn’t strike out a ton either. His .372 BABIP this year suggests some regression in his future, but he’s a career .289 hitter who has generally hit .275 or higher in each season except his rookie campaign. Marte has decent power for a speedster, but would not likely be much of a home run hitter in a Royals uniform. He hit 23 home runs as recently as 2019, but only 12 of those home runs would have been out at Kauffman Stadium.
The biggest issue with Marte may be his age. He just turned 33, typically about the age many players begin to decline. He reportedly rejected a three-year, $30 million offer this spring and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reported he is looking for a three- or four-year deal worth around $50 million. His average exit velocity is already in the bottom quintile of baseball, and that could decline as he ages.
The Royals seem likely to continue on with Andrew Benintendi in left, Michael A. Taylor in center, and Hunter Dozier in right, even though the latter two were among the worst-hitting regulars in baseball last year. But Marte could serve as a hedge against those two continuing to struggle offensively, with an ability to play any outfield position. The Royals will just have to hope he fares better than the last 30+ year old outfielder they signed to a multi-year deal.
Should the Royals pursue Starling Marte?
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