Why Starling Marte could be the answer to the Cardinals offensive woes

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Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

They say a baseball team can’t have enough starting pitching, but I beg to differ with the St. Louis Cardinals. As they (slowly) climb back to full health, it’s the bats I still worry about more with this team as the summer gets into full swing.

Granted, a sweep of the Miami Marlins looks great on paper heading out onto the road against Atlanta and Detroit, but will this team suddenly come up weak against an average hitter this next week? It’d be a solid bet and one the team can’t afford to gamble with, so the team should be looking at offensive upgrades. A player that just left town could really help. Enter Starling Marte.

Formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates yet hitting anywhere he goes, Marte would be a sizable upgrade for the hitting-feeble Cards, who currently rank 23rd in OPS across the Major Leagues. Last week, he was awarded Player of The Week honors from MLB.com, going 14-28 at the plate with two home runs and a 1.298 OPS, stealing four bases without one catcher arrest. Overall on the season, Marte is slashing .333/.432/.970 and five homers.

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But people may say he missed a portion of April and most of May with a fractured rib, so take those numbers with a grain of salt. Sure, let’s just look at his last two full seasons of production:

2018: 145 games, 20 HR/32 2B/5 3B, .277/.327/.460, 33 stolen bases, 3.0 WAR via Fangraphs.

2019: 132 games, 23 HR/31 2B/6 3B, .295/.342/.503, 25 stolen bases, 3.6 WAR.

Marte has pop in his bat, doesn’t strike out a lot, can steal bases without getting caught (pay attention, 2021 Cards), and plays an average-to-above-average outfield. He’s consistent and durable, even recently proving he can bounce back from a rough injury. The Cardinals could use some of that out there.

While Tyler O’Neill has been impressively consistent (for over a month), Dylan Carlson is slugging just .362 over the past month in 116 at-bats. While the former top prospect will and should continue to play, they need a little help out there. Unfortunately, Tommy Edman does get figured out by pitchers after a couple months, so placing him in the outfield is a push for a guy hitting .238 in his last 30 games at the plate. Injured List dwelling or not, Justin Williams can only do so much offensively. Austin Dean wasn’t getting many at-bats before his injury, and Lane Thomas seems to malfunction a little more each time he actually gets a start, which is every other Tuesday… I think.

Marte solves problems and they don’t carry Max Scherzer-type prices or losses. The Marlins recently declined the idea to negotiate a longer term deal, so he will be looking for a new home. With St. Louis and Miami pulling off a Marcell Ozuna trade and getting deep into Giancarlo Stanton talks in recent years, this shouldn’t be a hard one to pull off. Will it cost? Yes. Do the Cards have something the Marlins want? History says it shouldn’t be hard to match.

If not, tell me your plan for fixing an offense that ranks middle of the pack or worse in most offensive categories. Where’s the help coming on the horizon for the lineup? Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks will eventually be back in action, as will Miles Mikolas. That should shore up the rotation and bullpen, along with the upgrades John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch seek out for their arms race. But the hitting isn’t as easy of a fix.

As the team has seen lately with their starters, a great performance doesn’t exactly equal a sure win. Johan Oviedo pitched brilliantly on Wednesday and came away with nothing for it. Adam Wainwright pitched well against Miami and received zip for it. Speaking of #50, he has seven quality starts this year that didn’t bring him a win. Either the offense has been hibernating for a few extra months or the Goldschmidt breakout will solve all the issues, but placing a heavy bet on that is problematic.

What if O’Neill starts giving field box tenants a stiff breeze instead of a long fly to admire? What if Carlson and Edman continue to have trouble at the plate? Marte could help in a big way and not cost the team too much. If it’s a rental, it’s a rental. He turns 33 years old in October, even if a birth certificate doesn’t exactly mean the body begins wasting away. (Again, look at Old Man Logan, aka Waino.)

Retaining him wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Sorry Harrison Bader fanatics, but Marte is better overall. For his career, Marte’s wRC+ (like OPS+, it measures a player against other teams and ballparks, 100 is average) is 117. He has stolen eight bases this year while being caught just once. He’s capable of 30 doubles, 20 homers, 25 stolen bases, and an .800 OPS–and that’s in a FULL season. Tell me why not again. Sabe him all you want, and it still makes sense.

Oh, he can hit inside the N.L. Central. Oh, he is the ideal #2 hitter, with his versatile array of power and speed.

You do need arms to win the World Series, but you need offense to get you close enough to have a chance. On a team with Nolan Arenado and Goldschmidt, you still need more.

Marte, low-key yet productive, could be the easy answer.