The Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins have swung a January blockbuster. Reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez is heading to Miami for right-handed starting pitcher Pablo López and two prospects, the teams announced Friday. Infielder Jose Salas and outfielder Byron Chourio are also heading to Minnesota.
Each team traded from an area of depth to address a weakness with this trade. The Twins badly needed another quality starting pitcher and the return of Carlos Correa allowed them to trade an infielder. The Marlins have been looking to add offense all winter, specifically a high contact bat, and had pitching to spare after signing Johnny Cueto. That led the two teams to each other.
The soon-to-be 26-year-old Arraez is one of the game's great bat control artists, slashing .316/.375/.420 in 2022. He's hit .314 with more walks (137) than strikeouts (131) since his MLB debut in 2019. He doesn't have much power, nor does he provide much on the bases or in the field, but Arraez is one of the best pure hitters in the game and significant offensive upgrade for Miami.
The Marlins finished 28th in runs and 24th in home runs in 2022, and while Arraez will only help so much, he and the recently signed Jean Segura will give the lineup a new look. With the caveat that we don't yet know exactly how Miami will line their players up defensively, new Marlins manager Skip Schumaker can employ a regular batting order along these lines:
- 2B Luis Arraez
- 3B Jean Segura
- SS Jazz Chisholm
- 1B Garrett Cooper
- DH Jorge Soler
- RF Avisaíl García
- CF Bryan De La Cruz
- C Jacob Stallings
- LF Jesús Sánchez
Even after trading López, the Marlins have a strong rotation fronted by reigning National League Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara. Cueto, Edward Cabrera, Jesús Luzardo, and Trevor Rogers figure to round out the rotation, with top prospect Eury Pérez expected to arrive at some point in 2023. Pérez is arguably the second best pitching prospect in the game behind the Orioles' Grayson Rodriguez. The rotation carries some risk given Luzardo's and Rogers' injury history, but there's also an awful lot of upside.
López, 26, went 10-10 with a 3.75 ERA (108 ERA+), 1.17 WHIP and 174 strikeouts against 52 unintentional walks in 180 innings -- 32 starts -- last season. It was his first uninterrupted 162-game season in Miami's rotation, as his previous career highs were 21 starts and 111 1/3 innings in 2019. Perhaps that was at least part of the reason he faltered in the second half, as López was putting together a big-time breakout season for a stretch.
Through his first 10 starts, López had a 1.83 ERA and 0.98 ERA and he was sitting with a 2.86 ERA and 1.07 WHIP at the All-Star break. After the break, he pitched to a 4.97 ERA. Much of his issues were condensed into a 10-start stretch from July 21-Sept. 10, however, as he allowed 36 earned runs on 62 hits in 49 2/3 innings (6.52 ERA) before finishing strong with a 2.05 ERA in his last four starts.
The Twins still lack a bona fide No. 1 starter, though López will now join Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray to form a solid top three. Kenta Maeda is expected back from Tommy John surgery this year, and Tyler Mahle, last year's trade deadline addition, should be ready for spring training after being hampered by shoulder trouble late last season. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder are depth starters.
Salas, 19, hit .250/.339/.384 in 109 games split between two Single-A levels in 2022. Baseball America recently ranked him the No. 4 prospect in Miami's system, and said "his offensive skills will make him a valuable player." Chourio, 17, spent 2022 in the rookie Dominican Summer League. MLB.com did not rank him among Miami's top 30 prospects before the trade.
Arraez will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2025, while López is only under control through 2024. The extra year of control is why the Twins would not surrender Arraez in a straight 1-for-1 trade for López, according to The Athletic.