Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Starling Marte To Team-Friendly Extension

By Zach Morrison
Pittsburgh Pirates Starling Marte
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In what has been an extremely disappointing offseason, it appears the Pittsburgh Pirates are trying to finish off strong. In the three days remaining before the start of the 2014 season, the Pirates will undoubtedly be trying to trade for a first baseman. Even if the team does acquire a Mike Carp or Ike Davis to play first base, the biggest move the the Pirates made this offseason came in the form of a contract extension.

On Thursday, the Pirates announced a very team-friendly, six-year extension with Starling Marte worth $31 million. The extension also includes two team-option years that could potentially make the extension eight years for $55 million if the Pirates decide to pick up both options.

The breakdown of Marte’s extension are as follows:

2014: $500,000
2015: $1 million
2016: $3 million
2017: $5 million
2018: $7.5 million
2019: $10 million
2020: $12.5 million (first team-option)
2021: $13.5 million (second team-option)

Even if Marte doesn’t repeat his 4.6 fWAR from 2013 ever again, this deal will still be a great one for the Pirates. I’ve seen people worry about the left fielder’s weak walk-rate (4.4 percent for his career) and high strikeout-rate (career 25.1 percent), but even if his offense does regress, his defense alone makes him valuable.

The fact is that Marte brings a rare mix of speed, power and defense to the table. He stole 41 bases in 2013 (but was also caught 15 times) and hit 12 home runs. The 2013 season was his first full year at the MLB level, so he has plenty of time to work on his base-running. Marte was by far the best defensive left fielder in baseball last season, as he saved 20 runs and had a 10.2 UZR.

Don’t get me wrong, Marte’s inability to draw walks and his frequent strikeouts are a bit concerning. If Marte isn’t getting hits, he isn’t producing on offense. When he is hitting well, it is going to be a result of an extremely high BABIP, such as the .363 BABIP he had in 2013. However, much like his base-running, Marte has plenty of time to develop more patience at the plate.

Now that the Pirates have Marte and Andrew McCutchen both locked up long-term, the team can focus on extensions for players such as Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Gerrit Cole and Gregory Polanco. Extending Cole or Alvarez will be almost impossible, however, as they are both represented by Scott Boras, and Boras wants his clients to test free agency.

With just three days until Opening Day, there are still some unresolved issues with the Pirates’ roster. It will be interesting to see if they do anything regarding their first base problem. They also have an extra reliever, so they will try to deal one before the season begins.

Zach Morrison is a Pirates writer at RantSports.com. You can follow Zach on Twitter and you can add him to your circles on Google+.

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