MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Texas Rangers

The Pittsburgh Pirates are on to something. While their current starting rotation might leave something to be desired, the outfield of the present and the future is as good as it gets.

By locking Starling Marte up for six years (plus two option years), the Pirates have an excellent left fielder in place right through his late-twenties peak – all at the controlled costs the Pirates need to survive.

Starling Marte posted great numbers in his first full season in the big leagues, hitting .280/.343/.441 with 12 homers and 41 steals in a very tough park for right-handed hitters. Marte is a dynamic base runner and strong outfielder, as he and Andrew McCutchen chase down fly balls in PNC Park’s vast left-center field power alley with aplomb.

Pairing Marte and the reigning NL MVP in the outfield and at the top of the order gives the Pirates a lot of hope for the future, to say nothing of top prospect Gregory Polanco, currently pounding on the door at the triple-A level. Polanco looked every bit the part of a big leaguer this spring and figures to make some noise for the Pirates before the season is over. Once his service time issues are resolved, the current crop of busted prospects and hangers-on crowding the Pirates right field depth chart will be little more than depth.

Getting Marte’s arb years and two free agent years at such a low cost protects the budgeted Bucs while offering Marte guaranteed millions after just 182 big league games. A defense and base running player might not earn as much through arbitration but this is still good for both team and player.

Risk? Of course, there is always risk. But the skills that Marte showed at every level of the minor leagues and continued showing as he progressed to the highest level make him a good bet to deliver on a contract that could still get him to free agency at age-32.

The Pirates spend conservatively – some might even call them cheap. They need these types of deals to survive under their self-imposed budgets. With a young cheap outfield and a pitching staff anchored by Gerritt Cole (with more help on the way), the Pirates hope they can take down the NL Central by storm and beat the Cardinals the only way they can – at their own game.