The Yankees checked in a few times on Starling Marte, but the Marlins did not see a match. So Marte was traded to the A’s — the team the Yankees are trying to catch for the second wild card.
Marte was dealt for the second consecutive trade deadline — Arizona to Miami last year and the Marlins to the A’s this season. Oakland surrendered Jesus Luzardo, who went into last season as a consensus top-12 prospect in the sport. The lefty had not pitched well for the A’s this year, sporting a 6.87 ERA in 13 games (six starts).
To gain access to such a well-regarded arm and to deal with the financially tight A’s, the Marlins agreed to pay near all of the $4.7 million-ish that Marte was owed the rest of the season.
At the time of the trade, the A’s were six games behind the Astros in the AL West and led for the second wild card by one game over the Mariners and 2 ¹/₂ over the Yankees. Without another move, Marte (.859 OPS, 22 steals) likely would replace Stephen Piscotty in right and provide the A’s a strong outfield beside Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha.
The Marlins add Luzardo to one of the best stables of young starting pitching (combined majors and minors) in the game. They want to use the pitching depth to try to improve the quality of their positional group. Executives who have inquired have been told major league starters such as Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers are basically off-limits and that Miami would prefer to use minor league arms in this area.
The small-market Marlins were willing to absorb the rest of the contract to facilitate the deal it wanted. Walk-year position players are particularly tough to get big returns on at the deadline, so paying some to all of the remaining contract often works as an inducement to improve a package. Marte, Kris Bryant and Trevor Story have been viewed as the best of the walk-year position players in play to be traded. And it will be intriguing how much current clubs would eat to improve the return.
Bullpens get mightier
Relievers are always the most traded commodity at the deadline and two teams jumped out early trying to address bullpen weaknesses.
Is Cincinnati too late? The Reds have the majors’ worst bullpen ERA (5.36) and late Tuesday obtained Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson from the Yankees, then on Wednesday landed Mychal Givens from the Rockies. Cincy began Wednesday seven back in the NL Central and six in the wild card.
Earlier this week, a rival AL GM said he thought the Astros were the AL’s best team and could galvanize that by addressing an inadequate bullpen. On Tuesday night, Houston obtained Mariners closer Kendall Graveman and on Wednesday acquired Marlins closer Yimi Garcia.
Difficult to deal
Completing a trade is difficult. But those who are trying to do so have expressed to me some hurdles unique to this year:
1. If you are acquiring either a major or minor league pitcher, do you feel like there has been enough time to assess how they are performing since the sport began a significant crackdown on illegal sticky stuff?
2. If you are acquiring any player, but particularly a pitcher, do you have to worry more than ever about them hitting a wall after having their workloads last year limited by a 60-game season or no minor league season?
3. With the Delta variant of COVID-19 leading to increasing cases, might you acquire a player who then contracts the virus and be lost for an extended period? Available Nationals shortstop Trea Turner had to be pulled from a game Tuesday when it was learned he was COVID positive, then Wednesday the Nats were revealed to have more cases.
4. If you are paying extra in prospects for a veteran because you can control him in 2022 as well, do you have to worry that a labor-related work stoppage (the collective bargaining agreement expires in January) that leads to games being lost next season, lowering the value of having that player?
Center of attention in Bronx
The Yankees have been thorough in looking for a center fielder — heard they even checked in with the Rays to ask about Kevin Kiermaier, Manny Margot and Brett Phillips. …. The worst ERA in Mets history for a pitcher allowed to appear in at least 125 games is the 5.50 Paul Sewald accrued from 2017-20 (Robert Gsellman is next at 4.59). We note this because, with Graveman traded to the Astros, the Mariners’ new closer is Sewald. Justifiably. He has a 2.30 ERA in 31 appearances and has struck out 42.5 percent of hitters faced — among relievers, only Craig Kimbrel (46.7) and Josh Hader (45.4) were higher. … Another reason the Mets’ near full emphasis has to be on pitching: After so much rightful concern about the offense, the Mets’ .800 OPS in July leads the majors.