The Marlins and Twins continue to explore trade possibilities involving Minnesota infielder Luis Arraez and Miami’s surplus of starting pitching, reports Dan Hayes of the Athletic. Jon Heyman of the New York Post first wrote last week that Arraez’s name had come up in discussions involving Marlins righty Pablo López but suggested the Twins were uninterested in parting with the infielder.
Hayes similarly hears that Minnesota isn’t willing to pull the trigger on a one-for-one swap of Arraez and López. However, Hayes characterizes Minnesota as willing to entertain larger possibilities involving Arraez and controllable starting pitching targets. While the Twins aren’t actively shopping him, they’re apparently keeping an open mind to broader trade permutations. There’s no indication anything is imminent, and Hayes notes that the sides haven’t directly spoken in several days even as a general line of communication between the clubs seemingly remains open.
The Marlins’ willingness to dealing from the rotation has dated back at least as far as the 2021-22 offseason. Miami has yet to make a major trade but is still generally expected to subtract a starter for an offensive addition between now and Opening Day.
Reports have suggested the Fish were amenable to offers on any of López, Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers and Edward Cabrera. While there’s no indication that’s officially changed, it seems talks are focusing in on the most experienced member of the group. Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald wrote this afternoon that López has moved the forefront of Miami’s trade discussions around the league. According to the Herald, discussions on Rogers and Cabrera have “cooled” of late.
That’s not an especially surprising development. López is down to two seasons of remaining club control. Rogers and Luzardo are each controllable for four years, while Cabrera can be retained for another six seasons. That has made López the most straightforward trade candidate in the Miami rotation all along, although early reports this winter suggested the Fish might instead look towards a Rogers deal while keeping López in the fold.
Even with the comparatively lesser control window, López is a highly appealing trade chip for Miami general manager Kim Ng and her staff. The Venezuelan-born righty has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the last three seasons. He hasn’t walked more than 7.5% of batters faced in any of those campaigns and has posted at least a 23.6% strikeout rate in all three seasons. López sits in the 93-94 MPH range with his fastball and owns one of the game’s better changeups. He misses bats and keeps the ball on the ground at an above-average clip and generally manages solid results against right and left-handed hitters alike.
He’ll play the 2023 campaign on a $5.45MM salary after avoiding arbitration last week. The 26-year-old will be due one more raise the following year before hitting free agency over the 2024-25 offseason.
Acquiring a starter who’s controllable beyond next season is apparently on the wishlist for a Minnesota club that could see a notable chunk of its rotation depart next winter. Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda are all slated for free agency after the 2023 campaign. Of their current starting five, only Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are controllable beyond next season. Minnesota extended their window of control over righty Chris Paddack by an extra season last week, signing him through the end of 2025. He’ll likely get another rotation opportunity at some point but is currently on the mend from the second Tommy John procedure of his career. Young pitchers like Simeon Woods Richardson, Josh Winder and Louie Varland could play their way into the mix at some point but are far from established.
While it’s easy to see the appeal of adding a quality pitcher like López who’d stick around through 2024, Minnesota remains unwilling to do so in a straight swap for Arraez. The left-handed hitter is arbitration eligible for one season longer than López, controllable through 2025. His 2023 salary remains undefined — he and the club look to be headed for an arbitration hearing after not reaching an agreement last week — but will check in between $5MM and $6.1MM.
Arraez is fresh off his first All-Star campaign. He claimed the American League batting title by hitting .316 and reached base at a .375 clip overall. The 25-year-old only hit eight home runs in 603 plate appearances but is among the sport’s best pure hitters. No qualified hitter struck out less often than Arraez, who went down on strikes in only 7.1% of his trips. He was one of six qualified batters with more walks than strikeouts, drawing free passes at a decent 8.3% rate.
A second base prospect throughout his time in the minors, Arraez has assumed more of a bat-first utility role in recent years. Public defensive metrics have given him mixed reviews for his work at the keystone, and Minnesota turned to him more often at first base in deference to Jorge Polanco last season. Arraez can also play some third base and rotate through designated hitter. Miami has Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jean Segura to play second and third base, respectively. There’d be room for Arraez to join right-handed power bats Garrett Cooper and Jorge Soler in the first base/DH mix, and he’s the archetype of the high-contact bat the Miami front office has reportedly sought.
If Miami and the Twins can’t bridge the gap in their trade discussions, the Marlins would find no shortage of interest in López elsewhere. The Padres and Cardinals have also been linked to the hurler this offseason while a number of others checked in at last summer’s trade deadline. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch implied this afternoon (on Twitter) there wasn’t much momentum between the Fish and Cardinals on López right now, though, suggesting that Miami’s interest in St. Louis outfielder Lars Nootbaar has been rebuffed.