Saturday, January 22

Starling Marte trades grades: Athletics add hit bat, Marlins get potential future ace Jesús Luzardo

Starling Marte was one of the best rentals available on the commercial market and numerous contenders were expected to be interested in the Marlins outfielder.

The winner of the draw, however, was a surprise. The Athletics managed to win the bidding war for their services and are paying a high price for the rent.

Craig Mish was the first to report that the Athletics were close to acquiring Mars. Then MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the comeback: 23-year-old pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo will go to Miami in exchange for Mars.

The Mars deal is one of many pre-deadline deals that have taken place so far. Nelson Cruz, Adam Frazier, and Kendall Graveman are just a few of the big-name players who had been ported before Mars.

Sporting News rated the trade for both the Athletics and Marlins.

MORE: Mariners players felt ‘betrayed’ after Kendall Graveman trade

Athletics: B

The Athletics entered the game on Wednesday with a 56-46 record. They are six games behind the Astros in the AL West and hold a one-game lead over the Mariners in the Wild Card race. However, something was still missing from the team’s lineup.

The Oakland team has solid power, but it ranks 23rd in the majors in batting average (.233) and only 19th in on-base percentage (.311). In particular, the A’s outfields have lacked a true all-around hitter. They’ve gotten some power from Ramon Laureano and Seth Brown, but adding an upgrade over platoon Brown, Stephen Piscotty, and Tony Kemp was ideal.

Mars certainly provides that. It has been excellent for the Marlins in 2021, as he has posted a .306 / .407 / .453 bar line and produced 3.3 WAR on the season, by FanGraphs. Marte should take over as the A’s leadoff hitter, and his good speed (22 steals) will provide a boost to the top of the lineup where Mark Canha had previously been a staple.

The speed of Mars will also help the Athletics in the outfield. They already have a good midfielder in Ramon Laureano, but adding Marte to the unit will give them two excellent defenders and allow them to cover a lot of ground at the RingCentral Coliseum.

If Mars is such a good fit in Oakland, why does the team only get a B for acquiring it? Well, it’s a rental and it’s hitting the free agent market next offseason. The A’s don’t seem likely to shell out a lot of money for Mars, who will turn 33 in October, so they probably bought him for just half a season.

If the Athletics win the World Series, it will be worth it. Otherwise, they will have given up a good resource for very little.

Still, it’s hard to penalize the Athletics too much for making a winning move now. After all, they play in one of the toughest divisions in the league, so they’ll need all the help they can get during the home stretch this year.

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Marlins: A

The Marlins made a surprise run in the playoffs during the shortened 2020 season, but they haven’t had the same luck in 2021. Miami is currently 44-57 and in the basement of the NL East. They are not going anywhere this season.

That’s what makes this trade so appealing to the Marlins. Mars is likely to leave in free agency, so ruling him out for an asset makes perfect sense. Doing so and landing a potential 23-year-old pitching prospect is a huge win for Kim Ng and Co.

Of course, Jesús Luzardo has struggled this year. He has posted a 6.87 ERA in 13 appearances with the Athletics and has struggled to hold the long ball. He has allowed 2.6 home runs over nine innings and has walked 16 batters in 38 innings.

Still, Luzardo will only turn 24 in September, and in his previous 18 major league appearances, which occurred during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, his numbers were more respectable. He allowed only 1.3 home runs out of nine and had a 3.68 ERA. He walked 20 men, but that came in 71 innings pitched. And during that time, he scored 75 strikeouts.

The Marlins can afford to be patient with Luzardo and let him get through his struggles on a major league mound. That wasn’t the case in Oakland due to their playoff aspirations, so this change of scenery could be good news for both Luzardo and the Marlins. Also, it’s worth noting that Luzardo went to Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, so this is something of a homecoming for him.

Luzardo is in control of the team until 2026, so the Marlins turned an expiring asset into one that could benefit the team for the next half decade. That is why they get ahead with this deal. This is a long-term picture.

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