Twins trade Luis Arraez to Miami
Marlins send starting pitcher Pablo Lopez, two prospects to Minnesota for the reigning AL batting champion
Why would the Twins trade the reigning American League batting champion? Because they felt deeper in the field than at the top of the rotation. Because acquiring a young starting pitcher like Pablo Lopez required a bold move.
That, in a nutshell, is why the Twins dealt AL batting champ Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins on Friday for Lopez and a pair of prospects.
Now, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said, the Twins have, in his estimation, the best rotation since Falvey and general manager Thad Levine joined the team in 2016.
“No disrespect to any other staff that’s been here, but when I think about what Pablo means alongside Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda and Joe Ryan … I feel like this is as deep a group as we’ve ever had,” Falvey said. “And now we have some real premium guys near the top of the rotation.”
Falvey made it clear he expects Lopez to pitch at or near the top of a rotation that also could feature young depth arms in Bailey Ober, Louis Varland, Josh Winder and Simeon Woods. That’s fine with Lopez, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound right-hander who at 26 had the best year of his career last season in Miami — 10-10 with a 3.75 earned-run average, 14 quality starts and a 1.17 WHIP.
“To be able to be a part of an organization like the Twins, everyone knows what they’re made of,” Lopez said. “The AL Central has dealt with the Twins for a long time, knowing what they bring to the table, so knowing what they bring to the table raises the bar, raises expectations.”
Arraez, 25, completed his fourth and best season for the Twins with an AL-best .316 batting average and was one of three finalists for the AL Gold Glove at first base despite never playing the position until Miguel Sano was lost to injury last spring. He also set career highs in home runs (eight), RBIs (49) and walks (50).
“When you have a player of that caliber, you know teams are interested in him,” Falvey said. “And the only way you’re talking about a player of that caliber in a trade is if you’re acquiring a player of Pablo Lopez’s caliber.”
With Carlos Correa coming back, and infielder Kyle Farmer acquired from Cincinnati, there wasn’t a great spot for Arraez in the field. And while the Twins have a surfeit of in-house starting pitching candidates, the Twins brass has been looking for ways to bolster the rotation — and Lopez has been on the team’s radar since he was a minor-leaguer.
“You talk about his changeup, you talk about the way he can utilize his fastball, this guy has plenty of velocity. He can put it where he wants,” Falvey said. “That changeup can be absolutely elite at times. He’s used it in elite ways against really good lineups and had real success.”
The Twins also received Marlins prospects Jose Salas, and shortstop, and outfielder Byron Chourio.
Salas, 19, was rated Miami’s No. 5 overall prospect. He hit .250 combined between low- and high-A last season and played in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .224 with five runs scored and seven RBIs in 18 games. Chourio, 17, hit .344 with 47 runs scored and 19 stolen bases in 51 games in the Dominican Summer League.
“Salas is probably the higher profile, clearly, of the two,” Falvey said, adding, “This is a kid that we’re really betting on. Switch-hitter, real tools, real ability, just going back to the international signing period when he was a marquee in that class. To get him as a part of this was really important.”
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