Giants: Starling Marte could be the answer in center field

By Dzintars Grinfelds
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 30: Starling Marte #6 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a single in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 30, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 30: Starling Marte #6 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a single in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 30, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Giants non-tendered last season’s best hitter in Kevin Pillar. Trade candidate Starling Marte is an intriguing potential replacement.The San Francisco Giants shocked many when they did not extend center fielder Kevin Pillar a qualifying offer last week.

It even shocked Around the Foghorn contributors. In a roundtable last month, all three writers who weighed in agreed at the time that the Giants should extend Pillar an offer.

Pillar, who turns 31 in January, was acquired in April of last season and he went on to lead the team in hits (157), doubles (37), home runs (21), RBI (87), runs scored (82) and steals (14). He was also the star of many highlight reels while covering center field with ease.

But even leading the team in most major hitting categories was not reason enough to be kept under the new vision of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and new general manager Scott Harris.

The Giants enter the MLB Winter Meetings undoubtedly on the hunt for an impact player in the outfield, especially at the center field spot.

Could they have their eyes on Pittsburgh Pirates star center fielder Starling Marte?

Giants fans who may like the idea of having Marte in a Giants uniform first need to know that Marte is not a free agent. The Pirates exercised their 2020 team option, so he can only be acquired through a trade.

With both teams embarking on a youth movement, it may not make immediate sense for the Giants to target Marte as he just turned 31 in early October.

But as outlandish as it may sound, a Marte deal could make sense for both teams.

The Giants have a number of young outfielders who could factor into the club’s long-term plans, but none are fully proven at the MLB level, nor are they as significant a statistical contributor as Marte.

Marte can also fill the power void in the Giants lineup that seems to be a point of emphasis this offseason. He’s not a prototypical slugger, but he hit 23 home runs last season for his second straight 20-homer season.

It’s the acquisition cost that could be an issue for the Giants.

A package built around outfield prospect Heliot Ramos could get the Pirates attention. Ramos has made headlines in the Giants’ minor league system, though the 20-year-old has shown inconsistencies as he moves up the ranks of the minors. He has the talent and athleticism to fill the hole left by Marte, though.

Pittsburgh is also in dire need of starting pitching.

Jameson Taillon has been unreliable as he continues to deal with numerous major injuries including Tommy John surgery, Chris Archer is likely to be dealt, and the remaining rotation options besides Trevor Williams leave much to be desired. At the least, the Giants have some young pitchers who could fill a No. 4 or 5 starter role such as Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, Conner Menez, and others.

This proposed idea would not be as simple as a two-for-one deal, but this could be the basic framework of a trade.

To sweeten the pot, the Giants could offer right-handed power hitter Evan Longoria as a suitable platoon option with Pittsburgh lefty Colin Moran, who management only allowed to face left-handed pitching for 78 of his 503 plate appearances last season. It would no doubt mean eating some of his remaining salary on the Giants’ end, though.

If the Giants somehow pull this off and the 2020 season does not go as hoped, they could always flip Marte at the deadline.

The veteran outfielder has another option left on his contract for 2021, making him more than just a one-year rental. Plus, Marte is at his best down the stretch. His career slash line in September and October of .308/.361/.483 trumps other months of the season.

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If the opportunity is there, it makes sense for the Giants to make a run at acquiring Marte. Besides being the instant upgrade the Giants lineup needs, his carries value beyond the 2020 season as the team continues building for the future.