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Marte, for now, nixes Pirates' multiyear offers

| Saturday, March 22, 2014, 10:36 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte makes a running catch during drills at spring training on February 18, 2014 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte sits in the dugout between innings during a game against the Phillies on Sunday, March 16, 2014, at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte signs autographs before a game against the Blue Jays Wednesday, March 5, 2014, at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte prepares to take batting practice Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates are trying to sign outfielder Starling Marte to a multiyear contract, multiple sources confirmed to the Tribune-Review, but he turned down at least two offers this past winter.

Marte, 25, will not be arbitration eligible until 2016 and cannot become a free agent until 2019. Although he and the team did not reach an agreement in the offseason, the sides are willing to continue negotiations, the sources said.

In his big league debut July 26, 2012, Marte homered on the first pitch he saw. In 182 games with the Pirates, Marte has batted .275 with 53 stolen bases and a .773 on-base plus slugging percentage. Last season, he was a finalist for the Gold Glove in left field.

The Pirates already have locked up center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who received a six-year, $51.5 million extension before the 2012 season.

“We've talked repeatedly about the willingness to pursue appropriate extensions being part of our philosophy as we go forward,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We'll be selective in that. You can't just go extend everybody because they don't all work, despite the myth that these are always club-friendly deals. Right situation, right player, right contract — we'll absolutely take a look at it. Who knows where we'll go with it?”

In August 2011, after one season in the majors, outfielder Jose Tabata signed a six-year, $15.5 million deal with the Pirates. Tabata, who will make $3 million this season, never has fully lived up to his expected potential, and the Pirates this spring have told teams they are willing to listen to trade offers for him.

If they can reach terms with Marte, the Pirates would have two-thirds of their future outfield under control. Top prospect Gregory Polanco is expected to be promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis this season.

With teams placing an increasingly higher value on homegrown talent, more long-term offers are being extended to young players. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported last week that outfielder George Springer, who has not yet played in the majors, recently turned down a seven-year, $23 million offer from the Houston Astros.

Long-term offers to players with limited big league experience carry more risk than deals with veterans. But Huntington is not surprised the trend is growing.

“The (advantage) is the same as any multiyear extension,” Huntington said. “You've got a chance to set your costs, and it can help you build around that player who you think is going to be an integral part of your future. Because of the enormous risk that you're taking, you're looking to save a few dollars, either on the front side in the arbitration years or on the backside in free agent years.

“The player's risk is he outperforms the contract. If he does that, he's got a huge free-agent contract staring him in the face. The (possible) downside if he turns it down is he never gets another offer, so he never gets that money back.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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