The Marte Mission
Everyone is weighing in on Starling Marte, so I thought it was time to let my feelings be known.
No. 1, I give Neal Huntington props for showing patience by not jumping Marte to the Majors at the first outcry for him, which was somewhere around the second week of the Grapefruit League season. Having someone vault from Double-A to the bigs is very risky; it can work but, if it doesn’t, the downside is very steep.
No. 2, it appears to be time.
The real Pirates offense doubtless is somewhere between the impotence of April-May and the omnipotence of June, so if the club reverts to being pitching-dependent, it needs both better defense and speed. Misplaying a single ball in right field could spell the difference between a win or a loss (as it already has).
When you talk about Marte giving the team a spark, you could also be referring to his playing style. He plays at an emotional level, and could stand out on a team where many of the players are reserved.
The longer the Bucs resist promoting Marte, the more likely a big trade, such as the one involving Justin Upton. The feeling is that, in the short-term, Marte does more in Indianapolis to enhance his trade value than he could in his Major League baptism.
One other danger with holding off on Marte: The longer you wait, the higher the expectations will become. So even if the Bucs are concerned with him facing too much immediate pressure, the earlier they make the move, the easier his transition will be.
By the way, I am a tremendous admirer of Upton. He will be a major player wherever he winds up. A classic change-of-scenery candidate. However, acquiring him will require a lot of creativity — and perhaps the involvement of a third team — because I don’t see how Huntington could fit his average $12 million salary into the Bucs’ mid-$60 million payroll.