Marte still here … for now, at least


The Pirates dodged a bullet Tuesday when Damaso Marte walked away from a multi-car accident in the Dominican Republic with apparently nothing worse than a sore neck.

Marte was on his way to a workout with the Licey Tigers, his team in the Dominican Winter League, when he wound up in a three-car fender bender. Marte was riding in the car at the front of the bumper-to-bumper accident.

During the offseason, several teams made trade inquiries about Marte, who is one of the most dominant lefty relievers in the game. In 2007, Marte racked up 51 strikeouts in 65 innings and held left-handed batters to a .094 average. Rather than swap Marte, though, the Pirates dealt away right-hander Salomon Torres.

Marte, 32, is a formidable setup guy and also has experience as a closer — a valuable insurance policy in case of an injury to Matt Capps.

If Marte would have been seriously injured in the auto accident, it would have been a crippling blow to the Pirates’ bullpen, especially with spring training just two weeks away. Even worse, it could have damaged Marte’s trade value.

Wait, you may ask, didn’t the Pirates spend the winter turning down trade offers for Marte? Yep. But the Pirates still most likely will trade Marte before the year is over. He’ll make $2 million this season, a very reasonable salary, with a $6 million team option for 2009.

No way are the Bucs dishing out $6 million to a setup guy.

Rather than allow Marte to walk away with a $250,000 buyout next year, the Pirates will do the smart thing and trade him in July for a prospect or two.