Ketel Marte reaffirms talent, D-backs’ trade in Wild Card outing
PHOENIX – The Diamondbacks’ first-year front office is already reaping the rewards of its first significant roster move.
You know, the trade that sent away Jean Segura, who a year ago was Arizona’s most productive player outside Paul Goldschmidt.
The Diamondbacks took a risk in dealing the second baseman to shore up their pitching staff by acquiring starting pitcher Taijuan Walker. The secondary part to the Nov. 23, 2016, trade was the calculation involved in that risk: the D-backs felt they had enough infield depth to absorb the loss of Segura.
Turns out, they only added to that depth.
Ketel Marte joined Walker in leaving Seattle for Arizona, and by the end of Wednesday’s heart-stopping, 11-8 win over the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game, it was the shortstop who’d put together one of his finest offensive games as a pro.
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Paul Goldschmidt’s three-run bomb in the first got the D-backs off to a fast start, and Archie Bradley’s heroics provided the climax to the evening.
Marte’s part shouldn’t be lost in all that.
Neither should his path here.
“He went down and earned his way back here as a more complete player,” Lovullo said Tuesday before the Wild Card win. “So without him, we had two shortstops go down during the course of the year that would have devastated other organizations, but because our front office built depth and Marte stepped in there, that was a saving moment for our season.”
Turns out, Marte might’ve saved the D-backs more than Lovullo could’ve imagined back on Tuesday.
Hitting in the two-hole Wednesday, Marte singled to set up Goldschmidt’s three-run home run in the first inning, then tripled home outfielder David Peralta in the second with a hit to right-center that put Arizona ahead, 4-0.
“I know I can run,” said Marte, who had entered the Wild Card Game under the close eye of Arizona’s training staff due to a stiff hamstring. “If I put the ball in the gap, I get a triple.
“I know I feel a little bit hurt. In that kind of game, I don’t feel nothing like that. I just go out there to play the game and thank God I get one of the best game(s) of my career.”
After the Rockies had put up four runs to chase Arizona starting pitcher Zack Greinke in the fourth, it was Marte ripping a one-out triple to center field, once again setting the table for Goldschmidt. The first baseman grounded out at the hands of Nolan Arenado’s look-off after a diving stop before J.D. Martinez walked and Jake Lamb popped out to end the frame, stranding Marte.
Marte became first player to hit two triples in a playoff game since the Phillies’ Mariano Duncan recorded two in the 1993 NLCS.
Maybe it could’ve led to more, but considering the win, it was a reaffirming night for Marte, who found himself in Triple-A Reno to begin his D-backs career as shortstops Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed made the Opepning Day roster.
It was also reaffirming for Arizona general manager Mike Hazen and the Diamondbacks’ front office.
“Ketel was somebody that we had felt, given his athleticism, his ability to stay in the middle of the field, proficiency on defense, he had gotten to the big leagues at a very young age,” Hazen said Tuesday. “We liked what he had done at the Minor League level prior to even his big league time.
“At that point the roster was still fairly right-handed,” the GM added of the switch-hitter who slashed .260/.345/.395 this year, totalling 18 RBI and 30 runs scored. “One of the off-season goals for us was to get a little more left-handed. Younger, athletic, give us more options up the middle.”
It feels so long ago that Segura, in his first year with Arizona, became the 14th player in MLB history to notch 200 or more hits, 20 or more home runs and 30 or more stolen bases. He joined Luis Gonzalez as the second Arizona player in franchise history to top the 200-hit mark.
And so it appeared to be a secondary storyline that when Hazen’s first significant trade sent Segura to Seattle to acquire Walker, the fine print of that deal was the acquisition of 23-year-old Marte.
Looking back, the significance of nabbing Marte in the trade goes beyond the Wild Card Game.
“We sent him back to player development to shore up a few parts of his game, which he did,” Lovullo said Tuesday. “And he deserves so much credit for playing a year and a half in the big league level and then finding himself in the Minor Leagues and not letting that affect him. That’s hard to do.”
The D-backs began treading water on June 27, when Ahmed was hit in the hand by a pitch, leading to Marte’s call-up.
They owned a 50-28 record at the time and went 3-8 from then until the All-Star break and 7-13 to begin the second half of the year before Owings suffered a broken finger to end July. The Diamondbacks scuffled for three more weeks to start August, but with Marte settling in, they went 26-12 to close the year by leaning heavily on the third-year player.
“God blessed me a lot this year,” Marte said Wednesday night. “I just go out there to give 100 percent, to get a win.”