The New York Mets have lofty expectations for CF Starling Marte now the question is will he meet them? He was signed to a four-year deal worth $78 million. He is viewed as part of the solution in the Mets offseason overhaul. Marte is coming off a career year, and he will bring much-needed speed and athleticism to this team. Marte tied his career-high with 47 stolen bases and had a career-high OBP% of .383 with an OPS+ of 132. The stolen bases are impressive considering he only played in 120 games. This season was very similar to his output in 2016 when he also had 47 stolen bases.
Marte split time with the Florida Marlins and Oakland Athletics last season. This at least gives him some familiarity with the NL East. If Marte can stay healthy he has 20+ home run potential at Citi Field. His career-high is 23 home runs in 2019. Last season Marte had 154 hits and 89 runs, which both would've led the Mets. His WAR of 5.5 would have also led the team. The Mets team only stole 54 bases which is just seven more than he stole. He will be a tremendous difference-maker at the top of the lineup. If Marte can even come close to replicating what he did last season the Mets will be thrilled.
Will Marte replicate 2021 with NY Mets next year?
Marte normally doesn't play a full season. With that knowledge, I'll project that he plays around 140 games next season. Fan Graphs projections have him at 128 games with 31 stolen bases and a WAR of three. I will project that he steals 35 bases, hits 21 home runs with an OPS around 800 and a WAR of four. He's 33 years old and there are some signs of possible regression due to his hard-hit rate only being in the 40% percentile among hitters and his average exit velocity is just 21%. His BABIP was 373 which was his highest since 2016. This will be hard to maintain since the league average is around 300. Although his speed will always help him get hits on balls that aren't hit all that well.
The Biggest concern for Marte in center field remains his defense. Last season he had -4 runs and has a total of -12 in his career. He's played 4,452 innings and center and he is slightly below average. On the other hand, he's a good defender in left field saving 72 runs in around 500 more innings. Part of this is because he was younger when he was left, but there's no question he's better in the corner. The Mets would be smart to move him to left field as soon as they possibly can. If he has to play center field this season that can suffice, but it won't be beneficial by the end of his contract.
Will Marte's contract bust at the end?
Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain signed a similar contract at age 31 for five years $80 million. The first two years of the contract were good, but the last two years have been brutal. Injuries played a part in it, but Cain is clearly a diminished player. Marte does have a better offensive game with more power and speed, but his defense is much worse. Cain was a gold glove defender who could steal around 30 bases.
Marte will only lose more speed as he gets older, which will make his hitting and defense worse. At nearly $20 million a year, the last two years of his deal most likely won't age well. His War is projected to drop to 2.2 and 1.9 in 2023 and 2024. It's still a good win-now move for the Mets, who have showed their all in with a payroll of $265 million. They'll most likely add more pieces after the lockout and they will look to maximize the first year of his deal. Ultimately I don't think Marte lives up to his contract unless he helps the Mets win a World Series.