Starling Marte will be forced out for the next 80 games
In a backbreaking move for the 6-7 Pirates, star outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended for 80 games without pay after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Marte will also be ineligible for the postseason after violating the MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, having tested positive for nandrolone, a synthetic anabolic steroid.
From a statement released by the MLB Player’s Association, Marte had the following to say regarding his suspension: “I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job. In this very difficult moment, I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general.
Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much. With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you.”
Marte, 28, is coming off a 2016 where he set career highs in BA (.311) OBP (.362) SLG (.456) OPS (.818) and stolen bases (47). Additionally, he led all left fielders in Defensive Runs Saved with 19, and took home his second straight Gold Glove Award, making his first All-Star team in the process. In each of the past two seasons, Marte has led NL outfielders in assists with 16 in 2015 and 17 in 2016, and already had three on the young season, which currently placed him atop the leaderboard once again.
For his career, Marte has hit 60 HR, 242 RBI, and .288/.344/.446, with his speed being his most valuable asset, having compiled 162 career steals, including an average of 37 in his four full seasons with the Pirates. Marte has also averaged 5.2 WAR in his four full seasons in the bigs, including 4.9 in 2016, 10th amongst NL Position Players.
Marte’s suspension is a huge blow to the Pirates, who will now be without their most valuable player until mid-July. Offensively, Marte was the three-hitter for the Pirates, and although he was off to a slow start, hitting .241 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 13 games, the Pirates offense could not afford to lose another weapon, ranking 24th in the MLB with 44 runs scored, 21st in AVG (.228) and 27th in OPS (.654). Defensively, the Pirates moved Marte to center field this season and moved long-time center fielder and franchise player Andrew McCutchen to left field after McCutchen finished last season with a -2.6 Defensive War in 2016, as well as a career-low -0.7 WAR, lowest on the team. With McCutchen struggling at the plate to start 2017, hitting .250/.291/.423, a potential move back to the more demanding center field should only continue to hinder his performance at the plate, as well as the Pirates overall outfield defense.
Marte is currently in year four of a six-year, $31 million contract that kicked in during the 2014 season, and is currently slated to make $2.814 million this season, almost half of which will be lost due to his suspension.