There was a bit of offseason speculation about the possibility of the Marlins trading right-hander Pablo López in an attempt to balance the roster. Miami had a surplus of starting pitching but a lackluster offense, and multiple reports indicated they could deal from their rotation to address the lineup.
That didn’t really wind up transpiring, aside from Miami including depth arm Zach Thompson in the deal that brought back Jacob Stallings from the Pirates. Otherwise, the Fish signed Sandy Alcantara to a long-term extension and held onto López, Elieser Hernández and their collection of highly-touted younger arms. Perhaps general manager Kim Ng and her staff wish they’d more aggressively shopped Hernández given the magnitude of his struggles thus far, but holding onto López certainly looks to have been the right call.
The Venezuelan-born righty has quietly been one of the sport’s better arms for the past few years. López was an unspectacular back-of-the-rotation starter for his first two seasons, but he elevated his game during the shortened 2020 campaign. López posted a 3.61 ERA while striking out batters at a solid rate for the first time, a promising 11-start showing he’d hope to replicate or improve upon over a full schedule. He was well on his way to doing so last season, pitching to a 3.03 ERA with an above-average 27.1% strikeout percentage and an excellent 6.1% walk rate in 101 frames through July.
Unfortunately, López suffered a right rotator cuff strain around the All-Star Break. That injury cost him virtually the rest of the season, as he only returned for a 1 2/3 inning appearance during the final weekend of the year — long after the Marlins had been eliminated from postseason contention.
Perhaps the shoulder issue complicated whatever efforts Miami might’ve made to deal him over the winter. Potential acquiring teams may not have valued him as highly as they’d had a few months before because of the health uncertainty. Maybe Ng and her staff never would’ve seriously entertained dealing López anyways, viewing him as the kind of rotation building block that could get the club back to contention. Whatever the case, López has picked up right where he’d left off pre-surgery, putting him on track to earn his first career All-Star nod.
Across 11 starts, the 26-year-old has a 2.18 ERA while averaging six innings per appearance. That’s the 10th-lowest ERA among 87 pitchers with 50+ innings entering Friday, and he finds himself in the top 30 in both strikeout/walk rate differential (19th at 19.5 percentage points) and ground-ball rate (26th at 46.8%). López has induced swinging strikes on 13.7% of his offerings, the highest rate of his career and the #11 mark league-wide. He’s freezing hitters for a fair number of called strikes, and batters are making less contact than ever when they have swung.
López has seen velocity drops on both his fastball and cutter relative to last season, perhaps a moderate concern given the shoulder issue. He’s averaging 92.8 MPH on his four-seam, a middling number that’s down a tick from the 94.1 MPH average he’d owned before last year’s surgery. His cutter is down three MPH, although that could be a deliberate alteration to generate more two-plane movement. Whether intentional or not, the slower cutter has been a better swing-and-miss pitch than last season’s harder but shorter version.
More than anything, however, the changeup is the key to López’s success. That pitch has continued to thrive. He’s always had a plus offspeed offering, but he’s using it more and with greater success than ever. López is throwing his changeup a career-high 37.5% of the time, a virtual equal rate to his four-seam fastball usage. Among starters, only Tyler Anderson and Shane McClanahan has gotten hitters to swing through the pitch more often, per Statcast. The changeup has continued to be an elite weapon even as López has more frequently featured it in his arsenal.
As he’s doubled down on his 2021 success, the 6’4″ hurler will be of plenty of interest to pitching-needy contenders in advance of the August 2 trade deadline. Nothing forces the Marlins to seriously consider offers, of course, and Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported yesterday they currently “have no plans” to trade López.
That’s no surprise, as Miami sits only four and a half games out of the final Wild Card spot in the National League. They’ve started just 25-30 and would have to climb four teams to get into playoff position, but they’ve also outscored opponents by 21 runs on the year. Winning eight of nine games over the last-place Nationals certainly helps, but the Fish entered 2022 intending to compete and could point to their run differential to argue they’re better than their record indicates. Regardless, they’re close enough to the Wild Card race it’d be more eye-opening if they were planning to move López at the moment.
If the team struggles over the next six weeks, perhaps they’d reconsider that course of action, but there’s no pressing contractual urgency to make a deal. López is playing on a modest $2.45MM salary, and he’s controllable via arbitration through 2024. The asking price on two and a half years of cheap control for a starter of this caliber would be astronomical if the Fish were to make him available at all.
That won’t stop other clubs from inquiring if Miami fades in the standings, and one could argue the plethora of young arms on the horizon and the injury risk associated with any pitcher should lead Ng and her staff to be genuinely open to offers. It isn’t hard to find recent examples — the Tigers with Matthew Boyd, the Orioles with John Means, etc. — of teams holding firm to high asking prices on controllable starters, only to see those pitchers lose much of their trade value to injury or performance regression. The Marlins would no doubt prefer to have López taking the hill for meaningful games in Miami than see him don another uniform, though, and Heyman’s report makes it seem even likelier he’ll remain in South Florida for the foreseeable future.
Garrett Cooper, too.
In 182 AB; the 1B has a .319 BA 20R; 27 RBI; 4 HR.
Drew Waters Bat
His bat is really good.
John Rocker Fan Club
Glad he’s healthy for a change.
Arb eligible twice more after this year
This is a completely different headline if your eyes skip over the word “onto” like mine did…
If you guys at MLBTR are looking for articles to write that go back and shows what transpired with a player (I think this is the 3rd I’ve seen recently), here’s a suggestion…….
Do a study about coaches – primarily hitting and pitching coaches – and their impact on teams that hired them after their first year or two.
Cleveland had 2 of their coaches taken from it’s pitching factory – Matt Blake by the Yankees and Ruben Niebla by the Padres. Blake’s been there a few years and not only has he squared away numerous starters, he’s gotten relivers up to speed so they don’t have to pay old / deteriorating guys $16m-plus a year to pitch out of the back end of the bullpen. Niebla is in his first year and he’s already gotten most of their starters stabilized and in the right direction. Brent Strom has done wonders with the DBacks starters already. He’s working on the bullpen guys.
For hitting look at Kevin Long’s influence on the Phillies. Players are hitting against the shift and moving runners along. I don’t follow the Yankees much but it’s apparent that Dillon Lawson has had a positive influence there.
Cleveland brought in Chris Valaika and it’ll take another year to see his influence – but that team has brought up so many good young position players this year that I can’t keep track of them…….with more to come next year. For all the breathless team rebuild stories, I’d suggest that Cleveland has the best group of young position players of any team doing a rebuild the past 4-5 years – and the national MLB media is missing it. Some of their guys started hot, then the league caught up with them. But Valaika (and Francona) knew that would happen and are helping them make adjustments back.
Am sure that there were other coaches hired the past year or two that I can’t think of immediately. It would be interesting to have a deep dive on how they’ve affected their teams good and bad.
It was incredible to me that they held onto Van Burkleo as hitting coach so long. It seemed like every time you’d hear a story about a hitter making an adjustment it would turn out TVB wasn’t involved at all. That was the case with Kipnis’s newspaper in the hotel room story, you’d find out Brantley’s dad was essentially his own hitting coach, you’d find out Jose Ramirez’ long slump was because he was trying to hit it the other way as TVB wanted and only got out of it when he said to hell with that.
And you see so many guys who flat out became better hitters after leaving Cleveland like Gio Urshela, Eric Haase, Robbie Grossman, Brad Miller, Tyler Naquin, and more. Valaika deserves a lot of credit for turning Gimenez, Miller, and Naylor around. But it really does make you wonder why Van Burkleo was the longest tenured hitting coach in the league before he left.
So who are they going to trade him for? Are they going complete rebuild and trading everyone of any value or only going half?
Marlins going to Marlin. Too bad there isn’t relegation in baseball. It would instantly solve the problem of teams like the Marlins just being a fluffer team and actually force these jokes of owners/franchises attempt to compete.
There might have to be relegation. I hate to agree with Yankee arrogance; it will probably be just this once.
Unfortunately it will never happen. Owners would never jeopardize the ability they have to print money.
I don’t really like these MLBTR pieces where they’re trying to be Fangraphs.
So don’t read them and move on with your life.
You don’t know that the Tigers were holding out for too “high asking price…” with Matthew Boyd. A GM made that statement in an attempt to negotiating through the media. Al Avila and Co. are well known to let quality players go in exchange for waiver wire trash.
At some point, an organization has to “draw a line in the sand” and start their rebuild in earnest and quit being a development organization for the rest of MLB. With Boyd, the Tigers held out for a fair value to the Tigers regardless of what media, who have zero accountability, was reporting what “I would do if I were them…” type trades.
“There is no new thing under the sun.” Casey Mize reminds me of Royals 2006 number one overall pick Luke Hochevar and Matt Manning is all hype and not MLB caliber.
No one can forecast injuries. If you think you can, write an article and tell us the future instead of mob intelligence opinion from retrospection.
I was behind the Tigers rebuild until I saw who they signed this offseason. If they wanted to field a team of primarily so-so veterans they could have done that 4-1/2 years ago and skipped the rebuild.
Last year they played youngsters and in the 2nd half pretty much played .500 ball. 2022 looked like the next step. Instead they bring in those vets with holes in their game and give them playing time. Seriously , who brings in Javier Baez to be the focal point of their team? The Mets brought him in in 2021 to make up for Lindor’s injury and the guy didn’t do much there.
Look at Cleveland today. They did a ‘rebuild on the fly’. Their ML roster is loaded with quality young position players that they’re bringing along. They’re committed to those players. Even if half wash out they have another batch coming up next year. THIS is how a team does a rebuild.
Cleveland has a pretty clear strategy. While one of the weaker organizations financially, their strength is developing starting pitchers, and whenever the team falls out of contention, they trade one or two (increasingly expensive) starters from their surplus for quality position player prospects who are close to the majors (as opposed to mortgaging the entire rotation and hitting reset). This allows them to avoid lengthy rebuilds and spending years in the divisional basement.
When Mike Illitch was still alive, he would always spend more money with the goal of keeping the Tigers competitive (hence the big nasty contract they gave to Miguel Cabrera). Since he died, it seems like the organizational philosophy is in flux.
I think Miami has a good strategy of putting together a quality pitching staff. Good pitching usually is the better way to go than good hitting and I think they will be more competitive in a few years
By the time time they develop and break in decent position players, their pitchers will be hitting free agency.
Just a terrible business strategy in Miami.
Financially, the Marlins organization is pretty close to the Rays. Both teams suffer from poor ticket sales and whatnot. But yet, somehow the Rays stay competitive year after year. What are they doing right that the Marlins are doing wrong?
They do what they can within their budget. Sign young stars to team favorable extensions (if they can) and bring in low cost free agent veterans to supplement. Technically, they haven’t done a complete tear down rebuild in years and remain competitive.
Honestly it makes sense to move him this year in the off-season… Marlins desperately need long term solutions at multiple positions… 3B, SS, CF in particular stand out. If they can get a good young starting caliber player to fill one of those spots and another 2-3 good prospects, they should move him. Behind Alcantara is Rodgers, Cabrera, Luzardo and Poteet, with guys like Meyer, Sixto, Eder, Fulton and Perez in the system as well.
You sure? What about this:
Rogers is having a tough year
Cabrera just started
Luzardo was looking good, but better wait
Poteet, Sixto and Eder: Injuries
Fulton and Pérez: maybe two years away
I will hold into Pablo and see how he keeps it up til the end of the season. The Marlins are having a good month so far and no reason to think they need to move Pablo.
They should be forced to give him to the Cardinals ,being the Cardinals we’re dumb enough to give up the haul they did for Ozuna! I’m joking. Mo should have been fired for that one alone