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The Miami Marlins on Wednesday traded outfielder Starling Marte and cash considerations to the Oakland Athletics in return for left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo, a Parkland Stoneman Douglas High graduate. Miami is paying the bulk of what remains on Marte’s contract, about $4.5 million, to complete the trade.
The move follows suit with trades the Marlins have made at the deadline over the past few years under the current ownership group — sending away an expiring contract or a player who isn’t in the club’s long-term plans in return for a piece that can help the club beyond this season.
Marlins general manager Kim Ng said the deal with Oakland took “a while to put together.”
“Trading a play of Starling’s caliber is always difficult. I think we all have an understanding of how big a part of the club he was, but at the same time you have to think about the future of the Marlins and really how do you bring in the best possible player or set of players that you can. It was difficult on a lot of different fronts.”
And Ng is happy with the Marlins’ return.
Luzardo, a third-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, has made 31 career appearances (including 15 starts) at the MLB level with a career 4.79 ERA and 115 strikeouts over 109 innings.
His four-seam fastball averages 96 mph and his curveball has a 55.3-percent swing-and-miss rate.
Perhaps most importantly, Luzardo is under team control until 2026 and does not enter arbitration until after the 2023 season.
Ng said the organization has not yet finalized their plans for Luzardo, although signs point to him joining the starting rotation.
Luzardo last pitched Sunday at the Triple A level and was used exclusively out of the bullpen during his most recent MLB stint with Oakland from May 30-June 19.
That’s another quality MLB arm to add to an already stacked starting pitching rotation that when healthy features Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Rogers, Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez and has a slew of top prospects on the rise (Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, Max Meyer and Jake Eder highlighting the group).
Add in mid-tier prospects who already made their big-league debuts and have shown small sample sizes of success (think Braxton Garrett, Jordan Holloway, Zach Thompson, Nick Neidert, Cody Poteet and Daniel Castano) and Miami has enough depth to potentially flip pitching prospects for the bats that they are missing.
“We’ve been an organization that’s built around pitching,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, “and to get a guy like that back at a trade deadline with huge potential is obviously a nice deal for us.”
Finding a replacement for Marte in center field would be the logical next step, as most of the club’s MLB-ready outfielders are better suited to play the corner outfield spots. Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra, Adam Duvall and Monte Harrison are the club’s primary internal options to play center field at this point. Sierra is starting in center field on Wednesday to wrap up a two-game series with the Baltimore Orioles.
“We’ll look into it more moving forward,” Mattingly said.
As for Marte, he was one of the club’s most productive players albeit one who was going to be a free agent after this season.
Heading into Wednesday, Marte led Marlins regulars with a .306 batting average, .859 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 52 runs scored and 22 stolen bases while also hitting seven home runs and driving in 25 runs. He started 62 of 66 games in which he was on the active roster in center field (Marte was on the injured list for 35 games with a fractured rib) and batted second in 59 of those 63 starts. Marte recorded at least one hit in 11 of his final 12 games with the Marlins prior to the trade.
The Marlins had discussions with Marte about a potential contract extension but the two sides failed to find common ground.
Sources said the Marlins’ final offer was close to $40 million over three years. Marte, who turns 33 in October, was seeking a four-year deal and informed the Marlins there would be no extension discussions after the All-Star break.
A deal couldn’t be struck, and that opened the door to Marte being traded on Wednesday.
The move ends Marte’s 11-month run with the Marlins, who acquired the All-Star and former Gold Glove award winner at the trade deadline of the shortened 2020 season to bolster their lineup and solidify a defensive spot that had been highlighted by instability for the better part of two seasons. Marte helped the Marlins reach the postseason for the first time in 17 years, and Miami picked up the $12.5 million option in his contract to keep him on the team for the 2021 season.
“Star last year, the acquisition and the timing of it, we felt like he was a big part of pushing us forward and giving us that boost to be able to make a playoff run,” Mattingly said. “And then obviously just continues on this year. A guy that our players respect. I think he’s respected throughout the game, the way he handles himself and way goes about his business. He’s been a total positive for us as an organization.”
Marte, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter shortly after the trade was finalized thanking fans, the Marlins and the Miami community “for all the support received during my time in this team.
“New horizons open,” Marte wrote, “and I will continue to give my best wherever I go.”