By Jason Shetler
While 2016 is a disappointing year as a whole for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Starling Marte has certainly been one of their bright spots. The 27-year-old is putting together another solid season, hitting .311 with an OPS of .819 and a 117 OPS+ in 126 games. His defense and baserunning this year has been outstanding again, as he’s recorded 17 outfield assists, while swiping 47 bases, both of which are new career highs. Marte was named to his first All-Star team, becoming the first Pirates left fielder to play in the Midsummer Classic since Jason Bay in 2006.
For as good as Marte is performing this season, the injury bug bit him recently, as back spasms has kept him out of action since September 5th. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle indicated that Marte was likely to return in one of the games of their doubleheader versus the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, but the back issues flared up again and he didn’t get to play at all during the weekend.
This past week, Josh Harrison’s season was shutdown due to a groin injury. Given the significance of Marte’s ailing back problem, the Pirates really need to consider shutting him down as well. There’s no reason to have Marte return when the most realistic goal for the Pirates at this point is finding a way to finish above .500. The absence of Marte has allowed younger players like Adam Frazier to get regular at-bats, which is a beneficial situation for someone like Frazier who is trying to establish himself at the big league level. Also, and it states the obvious in regards to Marte, you don’t want them to further hurt one of the cornerstone pieces of their franchise, especially with the remainder of their games not having much meaning right now.