Starling Marte is now the owner of the worst contract on the books for the New York Mets among those still on the roster. His inability to stay healthy and decline this past year puts him in the same conversation as past Mets like James McCann or Robinson Cano. Fans are fed up and not expecting much from him in 2024 or even 2025.
Signing Marte in the first place seemed like a swell idea by the team heading into 2022. They ended up agreeing to a four-year deal worth $78 million which was a reasonable amount for a starting center fielder coming off of such an impressive year.
Therein lies one of those mistakes with his contract. The Mets paid him like a center fielder. In only his second year, he looks like a below-average corner outfielder. His -1.0 WAR posted on defense was the lowest of his career and another telltale sign this contract has some issues.
The Starling Marte contract went stale quicker than anticipated
In recent years, the Mets have been pretty careful with contracts. Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, for example, had team options for 2024. Max Scherzer had a player option which at the time of its signing didn't feel like it could ever become much of a headache. If he helped the Mets win a World Series, and we all knew he absolutely would, who cares about what happens in year number three?
None of those deals worked out the way we wanted them to but at least the Mets are free of each in their own way with Scherzer still getting paid by them partially for another year. Not Marte. He has two seasons left on his deal. Dumping him elsewhere might not be so easy.
The fourth year was expected to be killer for the team. Generally you won't find a player performing his best on the other side of 35. Marte’s speed and athleticism is what drew the Mets to him in the first place. Although he remains a stolen base threat and maybe more so with the MLB rule changes implemented this year, it’s inevitable to see the wheels get a little flatter each year.
The biggest shame of all is Marte was the exact injection the team needed in 2022. It became most noticeable when the All-Star outfielder played his last regular season game for the team on September 6. Their lead over the Atlanta Braves slowly diminished. His absence was one of the big reasons why.
Halfway over, the big problem with the Marte deal is that these first two years have felt the way the last two should’ve been. By 2024, we should have expected him to perform well but break down. In the final season of the contract in 2025, he should have given them a performance like he did in 2023. It’s the prospects we want to see accelerate their timelines, not the fading veterans.
One less guaranteed season would have been perfect for this contract. In the offseason bidding war for Marte, the Mets must’ve felt they needed to go further. Unless things change, they’ll pay in a different way other than money.