Twins, Marlins close to trade involving Arraez, Lopez

2:09 p.m.: outfielder Byron Chourio is the third player directed to Minnesota, tweets Mish. Baseball America ranks him 29th in the Miami system.

1:57 p.m.: Field prospecting Jose Salas also heads to Minnesota, reports Craig Mish of SportsGrid and the Miami Herald. He currently ranks fourth among Miami prospects at Baseball America and ranked second and fifth, respectively, in last summer’s FanGraphs and rankings.

1:50 p.m.: Twins, Marlins agree to infield send trade Luis Arraez to Miami and right-handed Pablo Lopez this minnesota reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Ken Rosenthal and Dan Hayes of The Athletic, who initially said the deal is progressing, report that it is not a one-for-one swap and will involve additional players. Jon Heyman of the New York Post tweet that the Twins will acquire two prospects from Miami in addition to Lopez.

The heart of the trade, for immediate purposes, will see the Twins trade three years of Arraez, the defending American League batting champion, for two seasons of Lopez, who will be an immediate upgrade to their rotation. Lopez, 26, has emerged as a quality starter in the big league over the past three seasons, hitting a 3.52 ERA with a 25% strikeout rate, 7% walk rate and walk rate. on the ground by 47.4% in 340 innings.

Lopez has struggled with injury issues throughout his career, landing on the injured list three times due to shoulder strain. The most recent of those three injuries came in the summer of 2021 and wiped out more than two months of Lopez’s season, but he was injury-free in 2022 when he pitched a career-high 180 innings over a span of 32 starts. Last year’s performance earned Lopez a still eminently affordable $5.45 million. He will be eligible for another officiating raise in the 2023-24 offseason before reaching free agency after the 2024 campaign — barring an extension, of course.

Newly acquired Lopez will enter a Twins rotation that also includes Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan and Tyler Mahle. Although it was easy to wonder if Lopez could push Kenta Maeda in a bullpen role after missing the entire 2022 season following internal splint surgery on his right elbow in September 2021, Dan Hayes of The Athletic tweet that Maeda will remain a starter.

The most likely odd man in the conventional five-man rotation is 27 years old Bailey Ober, but the towering right-hander threw a strong 3.82 ERA in 31 starts to start his big league career – including a 3.21 mark in 56 innings last season. (Ober missed more than three months with a severe groin strain.) Alternatively, the Twins could consider deploying a six-man rotation that would help them handle Maeda’s workload and hopefully , to improve the health of a starting staff generally hampered by injury throughout the 2022 season.

Meanwhile, with Arraez now subtracted from the Twins’ roster, they will lose their first man, one of their best hitters and one of their primary options at first base and designated hitter. His departure likely opens the door for a 25-year-old Alex Kiriloff to insert himself as a primary first baseman. Kirilloff, a former first-round pick, was among the sport’s top 10-15 prospects before his big league debut, but he’s now had wrist surgery in each of the last two seasons, which has derailed the beginning of his career. There are quite a few advantages in this, but quite a few risks as well. It’s still possible the Twins will look to add another established hitter to help soften the blow of Arraez’s loss, but the first base and DH markets in free agency have been widely picked, so if it’s is the path they choose, it will probably have to go through another trade.

On the other side of the trade, the Marlins will get a left-handed bat to help balance a heavily right-handed roster. Arraez brings Miami perhaps the most impeccable batting skills in Major League Baseball, having stoked just 8.3% of his plate appearances since debuting at age 22 in 2019. He doesn’t walk at a particularly high clip, but Arraez’s mark of 8.7 percent is still higher than both his strikeout rate and last season’s league average walk rate of 8.2 percent.

Arraez, 26 in April, hit .316/.375/.420 with a career-high eight homers in 2022 and is a lifetime .314/.374/.410 hitter in the major leagues. His contact qualities are unmatched and will probably still allow him to hit for a high average, but the rest of his game is rather limited. Arraez lacks power, as evidenced by a career ISO 0.096 (slugging minus batting average), and his average sprint speed is below average, according to Statcast.

While he made his debut as a second baseman, defensive struggles left Arraez like something of a positionless nomad. He bounced between second base, first base, third base and left field, providing lackluster defensive ratings at each of those spots other than first base. This could well be his new position in Miami, given the presence of Jazz Chisholm Jr. at second base and Jean Segura at third base.

Like Lopez, Arraez has worrying injury issues on his resume. A torn ACL during his prospect days torched his 2017 season, and he’s been on the injured list three times since Opening Day 2020 also due to knee issues. Arraez also spent a week on the 7-Day IL concussion in 2021 and missed nearly three weeks of this season due to shoulder strain.

Arraez is eligible for arbitration for the second time this offseason and, as a Super Two player, he still has two years left in arbitration beyond the current campaign. He and the Twins couldn’t agree on a deal by last week’s deadline to swap referee numbers; the Twins bid $5 million, while Arraez’s side responded with a bid of $6.1 million. Now that he’s with a new team, it’s possible Arraez could agree to a one-year deal somewhere between those points, or maybe even discuss a longer pact. Otherwise, his subsequent refereeing raises will take his salary north of $10 million by his final year in control of the club, in 2025.

For the Marlins, removing Lopez from the rotation positions them to deploy a starting five Sandy Alcantara, Jesus Luzardo, Trevor Rogers, Edward Cabrera and Braxton Garrett, with several intriguing arms still waiting in the wings behind this quintet. Arraez will deepen and strengthen what has been a lackluster roster in Miami, and the organization’s rotational depth is strong enough to withstand the loss of Lopez.

There is no doubt, however, that the defense will suffer both from the acquisition of Arraez and from last week’s trade of Miguel Rojas. The Marlins will now have to play either Chisholm, Segura or Joey Wendle at shortstop, and the installation of Arraez at first base pushes Garrett Cooper at the designated hitter or at an outside corner. If Cooper is the go-to option at DH, it will push Jorge Soler back in the outfield. All signs then point to someone like Bryan De LaCruz, who is best suited for corner work, being once again poorly chosen as a centre-back. All in all, the gamble of dropping Rojas and adding Arraez in the name of balancing and improving the roster could have the unfortunate side effect of turning Miami from a defensive mid-pack club. to one of the worst in the National League.

The prospects of the deal are both long-term plays for the Twins, making them somewhat curious side pieces for a team that clearly offers immediate affirmation following their superb deal to re-sign. Carlos Correa. That said, recent trades for Mahle, Gray and others have thinned the Twins’ system considerably, so filling in with young talent helps straddle the build line in the short and long term.

Salas is particularly well regarded, originally signing for a $2.8 million bonus and currently ranking fourth in Miami’s system at Baseball America. He’s a shortstop at the moment, though BA’s scouting report suggests a move to third base is possible, depending on how well his still skinny frame develops. The switch-hitting Salas beat .250/.339/.384 against much older competition in 2022, splitting the year between Class A and Advanced Class A when they only had only 19 years old last April.

Salas hit nine homers and swept 33 bases in 109 games. Scouting reports on Salas tout his work ethic, touchiness, and the potential for at least average power. He will immediately become one of the Twins’ top overall prospects, but he won’t add any value to their 2023 club (other than maybe giving them more flexibility when it comes to negotiating additional deals).

Chourio is even younger, having just signed as an amateur outside of Venezuela a year and five days ago. Despite playing the season at just 17, the outfielder took the Dominican Summer League by storm, raking in a .344/.429/.410 clip with a home run, nine doubles, 19 steals and almost as many walks (25) as strikeouts (27) in 217 plate appearances.

Chourio won’t even turn 18 until May, so even wildly optimistic projections would put him three years away from being a legitimate big league possibility, and he’s highly likely to be even further than that. Still, there’s a lot to like about him despite the lack of proximity to the Majors. In addition to his eye-catching pro debut, Baseball America’s Ben Badler touted Chourio’s physical projection, powerful throwing arm, center field instinct and balanced swing when reviewing the Marlins’ international signing class l ‘last year.

More soon.

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