When free agency begins in early November, the Washington Nationals have plenty of work to do. After losing 97 games last season, Washington will have to make some major upgrades to their roster if they want to be competitive in 2022.
There are plenty of different ways the Nationals can go about upgrading their team in free agency. One would be acquiring a quality outfielder, to either play in left field or center field as the full-time starter.
One name that popped up recently was Oakland A’s outfielder, Starling Marte. On MLB Trade Rumors live chat Sunday night, Mark Polishuk named Washington as a potential free agent destination for the veteran outfielder.
“Who do you think will go after Starling Marte? The Nationals, Phillies, Padres, Giants, and Mariners all make some degree of sense.”
He also went on to say that he believes Nationals GM Mike Rizzo will have a potential big move up his sleeve in free agency, and he sees a possibility that signing Marte could indeed be that move.
“I find it a little hard to believe that the Nats aren’t willing to get aggressive in some fashion this winter, so I suspect Rizzo has a big move up his sleeve. I could see Washington make one very notable signing (perhaps Marte, or perhaps a shortstop) and then several other shorter-term additions, akin to their flurry of one-year contracts last year”
So, if the Nationals were to go out and sign the veteran, how would he fit? Well first off, Marte would be a huge upgrade over what the Nationals currently have as their options to start in LF. The 10-year veteran is one of the better pure hitters in baseball, and he showed that once again in 2021. Marte slashed .308/.381/.456 with 27 doubles, 12 HR, 55 RBIs and an OPS+ of 131, the highest of his career.
Starling Marte got all of this one. pic.twitter.com/iGAOrsi6JJ
— MLB (@MLB) September 11, 2021
OAKLAND ATHLETIC STARLING MARTE GOES YARD pic.twitter.com/4A1H38Yg2e
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) August 4, 2021
The veteran also tied his career-high in stolen bases with 47 on the year. As a team, after trading away Trea Turner the Nationals lack elite speed at the top of their order. Even at his age, Marte would bring that elite speed to the team.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) August 21, 2021
One knock on Marte as a potential free agent acquisition could be his age. The outfielder is 33-years-old and will turn 34 at the end of the 2022 regular season. However, Marte has been consistent and talented enough offensively, shown by his around .800 career OPS, and hitting below .277 in just two of his 10 seasons in the league, that even as he ages he will still be a valuable offensive player.
Also, the Nationals haven’t shied away from signing older free agents. Remember, they signed Jayson Werth back in 2011 when he was 32. This potential move would have a similar feel.
Marte would also fit for two more reasons, one being the Nationals likely wouldn’t have to break the bank to get him. The 33-year-old just finished up playing out a 6 year, $31M contract he signed back in 2014 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This time around, Marte will certainly get a higher AAV, but he won’t demand nearly as many years. If The Nationals were to go a little higher with the salary for say, 2 years, $28M, would that work for both sides?
Another thing that makes Marte an attractive free agent option is his potential trade value. We saw the Miami Marlins take advantage of this last July, dealing Marte to Oakland for talented left-hander Jesus Luzardo.
If the Nationals were to sign Marte to a deal and he is playing well but the team is not, they could ship him out at the trade deadline and get a pretty nice prospect in return.
Overall, Marte seems to fit with the Nationals very well. He’s definitely a name to keep on your radar when free agency begins in early November.