When the Athletics acquired Starling Marte from the Miami Marlins before the MLB trade deadline last week, his addition was meant to fortify the lineup.
But in the wake of Ramón Laureano being suspended 80 games on Friday for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug, the trade for Marte looms even larger for the A's.
MLB announced just after 2 p.m. PT on Friday that Laureano had tested positive for Nandrolone, violating the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Laureano will miss the final 53 games of the 2021 season, as well as the playoffs, and the first 27 games of the 2022 MLB season.
Losing Laureano in the middle of a playoff push is crushing for the A's, as he is one of the most important players in their clubhouse. But the blow is softened by Marte's presence.
Laureano hasn't won a Gold Glove or been named to an AL All-Star team, but his play the last few seasons has been worthy of both honors. In Marte, Oakland now has a replacement for Laureano that comes with one All-Star appearance and two Gold Glove awards to his name.
In 88 games this season, Laureano hit .246/.317/.443 with 21 doubles, 14 homers and 39 RBI. Without Marte in the fold, the A's would have had a tough time replacing that production from within the organization. There were no prospects at Double-A or Triple-A ready to come up and fill that void.
But Marte is more than capable to picking up the slack in Laureano's absence. In 63 games with the Marlins before the trade, he hit .306/407/.453 with 11 doubles, seven homers, 25 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Since joining the A's, the 32-year-old is slashing .360/.429/.520 with nine hits, one homer, one RBI and five stolen bases in six games.
With Laureano done for the season, the A's will have to mix and match in right field between Stephen Piscotty, Mark Canha, Josh Harrison and possibly Seth Brown. If Chad Pinder returns soon from a hamstring strain, he can patrol right field. All five guys are good MLB players, but none are as dynamic as Laureano.
In the series opener against the Texas Rangers on Friday, Canha is in right field with Harrison in left flanking Marte in center. The good news for manager Bob Melvin is that he has several versatile players who can move around the diamond. He has options.
The A's ship was taking on water before Laureano's suspension, as they are four games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West race, and they are clinging to a 1 1/2 game lead over the New York Yankees for the second AL Wild Card spot, and losing one of their most valuable players certainly doesn't help.
The A's were questioned for giving up 23-year-old left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo to get Marte, but a week later, that trade might end up saving their season.