The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to extend 25-year-old outfielder Starling Marte, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Jon Heyman adds that Marte has already rejected at least one contract offer, a reported six-year deal that would have kept him in Pittsburgh through the 2020 season.
Marte is currently slated to make $512,600 in 2014 (slightly above the league minimum of $500K), and has just over one year of service time under his belt. He is currently set to become arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2015 season, hitting free agency in 2018.
A highly-touted prospect coming up the ranks of the Pirates' organization, Marte burst out in his first full season last year, hitting .280/.343/.441 with 41 steals, a 121 wRC+, and a 5.4 WAR. Primarily a center fielder in the minors, he moved to left field last season due to the presence of 2014 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, and proved to be among the best defensive left fielders in the game, posting a 10.1 UZR and saving approximately 28 runs in the field. Marte will play the entirety of the 2014 season at age 25, so it's easy to reason that there is still some room for growth as he reaches his peak years.
The Pirates have had a habit of locking up their young outfielders in recent years, extending Jose Tabata for six-years and $15 million in 2011, and a year later, signing McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million deal. While the Tabata deal hasn't worked out as well as expected (he's a bargain at his current salary, but hasn't lived up to the hype surrounding him when he first came up), the McCutchen extension has turned into one of the best contracts in baseball, and by locking up Marte early, Pittsburgh is hoping to strike gold once again.
Between Marte, McCutchen, Tabata, and top prospect Gregory Polanco, the Pirates currently have an abundance of quality, young outfield options. It seems that McCutchen and Polanco appear to be entrenched in Pittsburgh's long-term plans, leaving either Marte or Tabata as the odd man out. Securing an extension for Marte would essentially lock up the Marte, Polanco, McCutchen triumvirate for at least the next six years, leaving Tabata as trade bait or a luxury bench option.