We discussed this on the Astros Boxes podcast last night (which should go up at some point in the next 24 hours), but I felt like it was worth a separate post.
The Pirates extended 25-year old left fielder Starling Marte with a 6yr/$31m contract yesterday. This will give the Pirates control over Marte through his Age 31 season with an average annual value of $5.17m, and he wouldn't have been a free agent until 2018.
In 2011 at Double-A, Marte played in 129 games (572 PAs), hit .332/.370/.500 with a 17.5% K-rate and a 3.8% BB-rate. In 2012, Marte played in 99 games at Triple-A (431 PAs), hitting .286/.347/.500 with a 21.1% K-rate/4.4% BB-rate. You know where I'm going with this, right?
George Springer - as you are all well aware and likely tired of by now - turned down a reported 7yr/$31m deal last September. At Double-A in 2013 Springer hit .297/.399/.579 (with a 29.7% K-Rate and a 13% BB-rate) and followed that up by hitting .311/.425/.626 in 266 PAs at Triple-A with a 24.4% K-rate and a 15.4% BB-rate.
To be fair, Springer has a better minor-league track record than Marte. He hits for better average and power than Marte, and he certainly walks a lot more than Marte. And Marte's AAV will be about $1.5m more than what the Astros offered Springer.
But Marte has something Springer doesn't have: 748 PAs of 117 OPS+ offense at the Major League level. In 135 games last season (566 PAs) Marte hit .280/.343/.441, walking 25 times, but stealing 41 bases in addition to ten triples (and 26 doubles and 12 homers). Marte is a solid defensive player with some pop and speed who doesn't walk, and strikes out a decent amount of the time (138 times in 566 PAs). Perhaps that sounds familiar.
That could be George Springer. Springer has 266 PAs above Double-A and the Astros were willing to give him $23m. I'm not criticizing Springer for not taking the deal - betting on himself may pay off big. I'm not criticizing the Astros for offering the deal - if Springer had taken it, then the Astros would have looked like geniuses. I'm simply pointing out that the offer was in the ballpark of a contract agreement between the Pirates and what may be a similar player to George Springer.