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Could Ketel Marte be in play for the Yankees?

I don’t usually blog about potential trade targets this early in the season. Especially considering the Yankees are coming off a 6-1 week and are 16-6 in the month of May. That being said, outfield has already established itself as a significant issue for the Bombers.

Aaron Hicks is likely done for the season, and Clint Frazier has been terrible thus far. Respected baseball writer Bob Nightengale Ken Rosenthal discussed some outfielders the Yankees could possibly target at the deadline on his podcast. He mentioned the Royals’ Whit Merrifield as an unrealistic option, while the Marlins’ Starling Marte could be in play. However, one guy really intrigued me: the Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte.

Rosenthal said that he could see the D-Backs potentially dealing Marte before the trade deadline. Marte is their best player and just 27, but the team’s already 13 games out of first place. It’s not crazy to say he might be dealt for a nice return. Rosenthal speculated Deivi Garcia and Estevan Florial would be part of a potential package for Marte. If he can be had for that package, the Yankees need to do it immediately. Ketel Marte is a perfect fit for this team. Let’s dive into why.

The perfect hitting profile

Marte would be an ideal fit in the Yankee lineup. He’s a switch-hitter, which will help them add balance. Marte also does not strike out all that much, as he’s gone down on strikes in just 14.8% of his career plate appearances. For reference, the Yankees have collectively struck out in 24.3% of their plate appearances this season.

Not only does Marte get the bat on the ball, but he also gets on base at a very high rate. In his breakout 2019 season, Marte sported a .389 OBP. His power numbers were also great, with 32 homers and a .592 slugging percentage. Here he is hitting a home run against a completely random team.

Marte finished that season with a 148 OPS+, good for an All-Star appearance & 4th in NL MVP voting. He had a down 2020, but I’m not gonna put a ton of stock into a bad 45 games when we saw plenty of stars do the same thing last season. Besides, he’s already off to a fast start to 2021.

A switch hitter, who doesn’t strike out, gets on base a ton, and has pop in his bat? Yes please.

Versatility in the field

DJ LeMahieu’s versatility has been a godsend for the Yankees the past three years, having played regularly at three infield positions. Outside of him, though, the Yankees aren’t all that versatile on D. Tyler Wade has been better of late, but he’s not a guy you want playing 140 games a year. Gio Urshela can slide over to short when necessary, but I’d much rather keep him at the hot corner. And Brett Gardner is currently the only true center fielder on the roster. Marte would help in each of these areas.

Marte can play three positions effectively – centerfield, shortstop, and second base. The way the Yankees look right now, Marte would be the centerfielder on an everyday basis. But he could also spell Gleyber Torres at short when needed. Urshela needs an off day? Just slide Marte to second & DJ to third. So while Marte solves the team’s centerfield issue, he also adds to its infield depth as well.

Salary/controllability

Even if the Yankees decide to stay under the luxury tax at the deadline, that wouldn’t rule out Marte. His luxury tax hit is just $4.8 million this season, and would be about half of that by July. Marte is set to make $8 million next season with club options for $10 million & $12 million the following two years. The deal also has a few stipulations:

  • 2023 option comes with a $1 million buyout, $1.5 million in 2024
  • 2024 option vests with 1,100 plate appearances across 2022-23 AND 550 in 2023 + not finishing the year in IL
  • Option Escalators:
    $2M for winning MVP
    $1M for 2nd-5th place in MVP
    $500,000 for 6th-10th place in MVP

All in all, Marte’s contract is super team friendly for a player of his ability. It’s also a reason he will not come cheap. If the potential Garcia & Florial scared you, it shouldn’t. That’s a more than fair ask for Arizona, and honestly I’d be shocked if that was all it took. But given everything Marte has to offer, I think it would be more than worth it.

What do you think about Ketel Marte as a potential target for the Yankees? Who would you like to see them get? Comment below or tweet me @ncostanzo24 to let me know about that, or anything else Bronx Bombers related.