SAN DIEGO -- The Athletics’ front office made a big score on Wednesday morning, one they hope will lead to more big scores from their offense.
“We felt like Starling was the best position player out there,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “It’s not easy to trade a player like Jesús. But, bottom line, we’ve always said when the team and this clubhouse performs and puts itself in this position, it’s on us to try to do whatever we can to help them.”
A's get: OF Starling Marte, cash considerations
Marlins get: LHP Jesús Luzardo
The A’s entered their series finale against the Padres on Wednesday holding the second American League Wild Card spot but with a mere one-game lead over the Mariners.
Marte, 32, was one of the most discussed position players on this year’s trade market. The 10-year veteran entered Wednesday with a career-high .859 OPS, seven homers and 22 steals, and he has also been a solid defender with 5 Outs Above Average recorded in center field, per Statcast. He was linked to big-market clubs, including the Yankees, Giants and Astros in the past several weeks, but the A’s instead sealed the deal by parting with a 23-year-old pitcher who was their top-ranked prospect as recently as last year.
“Not only does it give us a bat and solid defense, it’s also a dynamic athletically,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Marte. “His run dynamic -- he steals bases. He does everything. This is a big-time player. This adds to our team right now, for sure.”
Marte will join the A’s on Thursday in Anaheim for the first game of a series against the Angels. He should provide an immediate boost to an offense that has been stuck in neutral. For the season, the A’s are a middle-of-the-pack offense, ranking 15th among the 30 MLB teams with 4.36 runs per game entering Wednesday. That has taken a downturn in July, as the A’s have gone 8-12, including four straight losses entering the series finale at Petco Park. The A’s rank ahead of only the Rangers this month with 3.7 runs per game.
“This makes us a better team, a much better team,” Melvin said.
Added Forst: “We’ve lost a number of one-run games. The pitching staff has had an incredibly thin margin of error. … We do feel like a little jolt for the offense is going to be helpful.”
Marte reportedly turned down a contract extension offered by the Marlins earlier this summer and could be a short-term rental for the A’s, a la recent Trade Deadline acquisitions Tommy La Stella, Mike Minor and Tanner Roark. But reliever Jake Diekman also came to Oakland via a Deadline deal and ultimately re-signed after becoming a free agent.
Luzardo carried big expectations after an electric debut in 2019 that carried into a strong performance in that year’s American League Wild Card Game. But the southpaw’s road has gotten rockier since then; he recorded a 4.12 ERA in ’20, and he has struggled to a 6.87 ERA during a ’21 season that’s included an IL stint when he injured his pitching hand after banging a table while playing video games. He was also optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas in June.
Luzardo has struggled in Triple-A, too, with a 6.52 ERA across eight starts with Las Vegas, but he represents a high-upside project for the Marlins’ coaching staff. He pitched for nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., before the Nationals selected him in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
“We sent him down because he wasn’t performing in the big leagues at this time,” Forst said. “When you are in a playoff race, everything we did was about the now. I still think he’s got a lot of good baseball in him. He’s only 23 years old. But, ultimately, we’re focused on 2021, on this team. Sometimes, you have to give up good players. We know that, and we focus on what we’re getting.
“I can’t tell you what caused him to have trouble in the big leagues. We know he gave up a bunch of home runs. We talked about fastball command. I’m not sure there’s one thing right now. By baseball standards, he’s still a very young pitcher.”
Trade Deadline week is relatively young, too, as the pace grows more hectic the closer the Deadline is (1 p.m. PT on Friday). Might the A’s stay in the fray after landing Marte on Wednesday and reliever Andrew Chafin on Monday?
“It’s never enough,” Forst said, chuckling. “We’re going to continue to have conversations.”