Tim Benz: Could Phillies replace Andrew McCutchen with Starling Marte? | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz

Part of the reason the Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen is that they had Starling Marte.

Now that McCutchen’s newest team has lost him for the season, might the Phillies try to replace him with Marte?

That seems to be a percolating possibility, if you believe what is being written about the Phillies of late.

This week, both MLB.com and CBSsports.com posted stories suggesting that Philadelphia may look across the commonwealth to see if the Pirates have any interest in giving up Marte, so he could fill the void left by McCutchen with his torn ACL.

For now, former first-round pick and recent call-up Adam Haseley will step in. He got the game-winning hit vs. San Diego on Wednesday, his first in the big leagues.

If Haseley should stumble, or if the Phillies just feel more secure going with a more established major league talent, Marte may be on their radar.

CBSSports.com’s R.J. Anderson listed eight candidates for the Phillies to acquire. He ranked Marte as the most impactful.

“Marte is a great value, as he’s under contract for $24 million over the next two seasons,” Anderson wrote. “Nonetheless, if the Pirates like their outfield depth enough, they could begin shopping Marte around to gauge potential returns. He would seemingly represent the best realistic acquisition out there for the Phillies — the question is whether they would have enough in their prospect warchest to get a deal done.”

That whole “Pirates outfield depth” dynamic is kind of a quirky thing right now.

It looks like they have it because Bryan Reynolds is playing so well and Melky Cabrera has been quite a find in free agency. Also, if Corey Dickerson makes his return from a shoulder problem, that’ll help, too.

Then there’s the prospect of the Pirates getting Haseley (unlikely), or some other outfield prospect from Philadelphia in return, as well.

But if Cabrera should cool and Reynolds should hit a rookie wall, the Pirates are suddenly running thin on options unless Dickerson eventually gets healthy and into gear.

Of course, the Pirates could finally just call up Austin Meadows and show faith by playing him everyd …

… oh. Right. Never mind.

Also, remember both Dickerson and Cabrera are unrestricted free agents after this year.

John Paul Morosi of MLB.com set his sights on Arizona’s Jarrod Dyson as a likely trade target for the Phillies. Here’s what he wrote:

“Marte is less likely than Dyson to be moved — in a deal with the Phillies or anyone else — because the Pirates hold club affordable club options on Marte for 2020 and ‘21. While the Phils’ apparent ability to assume Marte’s full contract could appeal to the Pirates, Pittsburgh may be reluctant to move another outfielder so soon after dealing Austin Meadows to Tampa Bay. Meadows has a 1.087 OPS and is becoming an American League MVP Award candidate in his first full season with the Rays.”

The most important thing Morosi writes there is about those club options over the next two years. They total $24 million between now and the end of 2021. That’s a lot of money by Pirates standards.

But it’s incredibly affordable in MLB terms, especially for a guy who hits in your top three, plays center field and was 18th in the National League with a 3.7 wins above replacement.

In Pittsburgh, Marte is always going to be a polarizing player. He’s a rare blend of an affordable talent with a willingness to stay here.

But he’s also a guy whose production and baseball awareness have rarely caught up to his tools and potential.

In Philly, he may just simply be the guy who bails out the team from having a major injury in a season when they are supposed to be capitalizing on the arrival of Bryce Harper.

So far, that’s happening. Philadelphia is in first place, atop the NL East.

My guess is the Pirates don’t trade Marte unless this season spirals downward badly before the trade deadline. And by then, the Phillies may have an answer from elsewhere for their outfield.

Even if his productivity doesn’t help the Pirates win enough on the field — or at the box office — a sale of Marte for minimal gain may just be another battle the Pirates aren’t willing to fight this year, so soon after dealing McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.

And the organization may not be emotionally ready to entirely rebuild “The Dream Outfield” so soon.

The Phillies will have to show true desperation in return to make such a deal happen. And the Pirates will have to fade quickly from the NL Central or wild-card races to augment a sale of their starting center fielder.

But hey, why were they allegedly scouting Clint Frazier in New York again? Could they have been looking at this prospect long before McCutchen got hurt in the first place?

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