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Mets Sign a Real Center Fielder

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The Mets concluded their trio of Black Friday deals late last night by inking center fielder Starling Marte to a four-year, seventy-eight million dollar contract. This came on the heels of signing both Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha earlier in the day. The Marte deal certainly transforms the Mets 2022 outfield and gives them a much more competitive look next year.

A Real Center Fielder

All of a sudden, the Mets finally have the center fielder they have been after for years. Since the days of Carlos Beltran, the Metropolitans have seemingly been searching for a superstar center fielder who can play on both sides of the ball. The Juan Lagares experiment failed in 2015, and none of Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, or Brandon Nimmo were true center fielders.

In 2021, Marte posted stellar offensive numbers, with a 132 OPS+ and a league-leading 47 stolen bases. He is able to bring both on-base and slugging skills, alongside speed that the Mets have been sorely lacking in recent years. At the same time, he was the best defensive center fielder available in free agency, ranking in the 82nd percentile according to Statcast’s outs above average. It appears that the Mets have finally found their center fielder in Marte.

The Outfield

Marte will become the centerpiece in the 2022 Mets outfield, likely flanked by Brandon Nimmo in right and Mark Canha in left. All three graded out positively defensively in 2021, setting the stage for an outfield that could be one of the league’s best next year. On top of this, the on-base and speed combination of Nimmo and Marte should be a potent 1-2 punch at the top of the order.

The Contract

Marte’s 4/78 million dollar contract comes close to the deal industry experts predicted he would land, if not a bit pricier. Marte recently turned thirty-three, and his age cannot be ignored with a contract of this length. However, he does not seem to have lost a step yet, posting career-high stolen base numbers in 2021. It is likely that he will shift to a corner outfield spot in the latter years of this contract, but by that point he would share the corners with Nimmo, allowing the Mets to pursue a new center fielder.

Further, an average annual value of 19.5 million is a more than fair price to pay for a star CF who was worth 5.0 bWAR in 2021. Marte will certainly be worth this money over the next 2-3 years, and the contract is not bulky enough to weigh down the payroll of Steve Cohen. Above all, the Marte deal signifies that the Mets have their sights set on a 2022 playoff berth, and Cohen is willing to spend whatever it takes to get there.

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David Murtha is an MLB writer covering the New York Mets as well as general baseball news. He is a lifelong Mets fan born and raised in Queens. He is also currently a student at Stony Brook University studying biology, and has previously written for other online publications.