Early Friday evening, the Marlins made national headlines when they swung a trade that invoked two of the most coveted trade targets of the offseason: starting pitcher Pablo Lopez and infielder Luis Arraez. As first reported by SportsGrid’s Craig Mish, the Marlins sent Lopez and two prospects, Jose Salas and Byron Chourio, to Minnesota for the services of the 25-year-old Venezuelan who last year won the AL batting title. What is Miami getting and what did they give up?
What they got:
INF Luis Arraez
2022 Stats: .316/.375/.420, 8 HR, 40 XBH, 49 RBI, 43/50 K/BB
In short, the Marlins got their guy.
A 25-year-old who won’t turn 26 for another 100+ days, Arraez is one of the best contact hitters in baseball. Signed as a 17 year old out of Venezuela in the international signing period of 2013, Arraez made a quick impression and progressed quickly through the Minnesota farm system. After progressing a level every season, Arraez made his MLB debut in 2019 at age 22, nearly six years below the league average MLB player, something Arraez had become accustomed to. During his minor league tenure including time spent in the Venezuelan Winter League, he had always faced off against much older competition.
A .331/.385/.413, 129/123 K/BB career minor league bat, Arraez’s biggest strength was clear cut: the ability to hit for average and work his way on base. That permeated immediately amidst his midseason call up to the Twins in his rookie season. In his first 92 games, Arraez hit an impressive .334/.399/.439. Following a .294/.357/.376 2021 season, Arraez and took an even larger step forward in 2022, proving there’s even more in the tank. With a .316/.375/.421 slash line, he won the AL batting title in his most extensive pro season (144 games). He was a mainstay at the top of the Twins’ order leading off in 92 of those games. As Minnesota’s leadoff hitter he hit .299/.349/.404 and struck out just 31 times while walking 29 times. As a Marlin, Arraez immediately becomes the best hit-for-average tool on the big league squad and should assume a similar role in the top third of the 2023 ledger.
Arraez finished 2022 amongst the best in baseball at avoiding strikeouts. He also was in the 97th percentile in expected batting average. In a league where shifts will be banned and offense is expected to increase, if Arraez’s success permeates, he should come by an even better slash this season. Offensively, he fits exactly what the Marlins are trying to do as proven by the previous signings of Jordan Groshans, Xavier Edwards, Jacob Amaya, Jean Segura, and others: find guys that will get on base more often and allow their sluggers Soler and Garcia to rebound. He also holds three years of the Marlins’ magic words: team control. There’s no question; Arraez was their prize and they won it.
But what did it cost?
What they gave up:
RHP Pablo Lopez
2022 Stats: 180 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 174/53 K/BB
Unfortunately in a trade for a player the caliber of Arraez coming off a career year with multiple years of team control, Pablo, who is in the Marlins’ biggest position of strength, was all but a foregone conclusion. Especially if the Marlins were going to match up with the Minnesota Twins, a team who is looking to get over the hump after falling just short of .500 last season, partially due to their 3.98 team ERA which ranked 19th in baseball.
With that being said, in Pablo, the Marlins lose one of the best control pitchers in baseball and a staple amongst the top three in any big league rotation, especially in a league that is expected to get even more hitter friendly. Lopez, 26, came to the Marlins in 2017 via trade with the Seattle Mariners. After mixed results in his first two big league stints, Lopez developed a cutter and drastically improved his changeup. Last season, while his 93-95 fastball stagnated, the changeup grew to a 3.9 runs above average offering. He also gained a ton of downward action on his slow curveball which he dipped down into the low 80s. That pitch grew to be a 2.4 RAA weapon.
Long story short, entering his prime years, Pablo Lopez limits walks with the best of them, repeats with the best of them, and shortens his distance to the plate as well as just about anyone (97th percentile in 2022 per Statcast). A one time prospective physician, Lopez also owns one of the highest IQs in MLB overall which he brings to his craft regarding his pitch selection. Oh, and he also happens to be one of the best human beings in professional sports.
Lopez, with two years of control remaining, will enter the Minnesota rotation presumably as the second man in line after Joe Ryan.
INF Jose Salas
2022 Stats (A-A+): .250/.339/.384, 9 HR, 33 XBH, 41 RBI, 33/1 SB/CS
Salas is a 19-year-old shortstop who has made a more than solid impression since being signed by the Marlins in 2019. A switch hitter, Salas was arguably the best and most tooled up offensive prospect in the Marlins’ system.
A switch hitter, Jose Salas, from the same family that just allotted Ethan Salas to sign for most of the Padres’ international pool and which has Andrew Salas on deck, personifies the term speed. A 6’2” 191 specimen and still growing, when Salas finds barrel contact, the ball explodes. Regularly reaching 95+ mph exit velocities with both the Hammerheads and Sky Carp last season while selecting swings well, Jose combatted facing mostly older competition as well as playing in pitcher friendly environments. On the season, he hit .250/.339/.384 while menacing the base paths. Via plus speed and a plus plus base runner IQ, he stole 33 bases and was caught just once. For those keeping track, that’s a 97% success rate.
Following the minor league season, Salas was assigned to the Arizona Fall League. There, playing against guys over three years his elder on average, he was a bit overmatched. In 18 games, he hit .224/.313/.310. Still, in that small sample, his patience still permeated. He held down a 12/8 K/BB.
What Salas proved in 2022 is that he has advanced plate vision as well as fantastic speed that will serve him well both in the field and at the plate. He also has extremely quick hands and bat speed becoming of a home run threat, especially as he fully matured physically. What Salas also proved is that he has continued to be an extremely pull heavy hitter who can struggle to put some pitches in play, especially those on the outer half. Salas hit to his pull side over 48% of the time which was a career best mark but still extremely high. However, if Salas can be developed the use more of the field as he continues to grow, he has the potential ceiling of a starter at several infield positions including shortstop, third base or second base. The Twins will be free to explore where they believe this very toolsy and extremely athletic infielder fits as they continue to nurture him over the course of next two seasons.
OF Byron Chourio
2022 Stats: .344/.429/.410, 1 HR, 10 XBH, 23 RBI, 27/25 K/BB, 19/7 SB/CS
Chourio is a 17-year-old Venezuelan that was part of last year’s international signing class. Very mature physically for his age — 6’2”, 171 lbs — Chourio put on a show in the DSL in 2022. Spending time at all three outfield positions as well as DH, Chourio was a guy the DSL Marlins’ lineup just couldn’t do without. Playing in 51 of the club’s 57 games, Chourio led the team in BA, OBP, and steals. Organizationally, his .344 BA marker led the Marlins’ organization. His 134 wRC+ ranked third.
Chourio is a switch hitter who employs a short approach and an extremely quick swing from both sides. He also recognized pitching well in his first pro season, worked his way aboard and employed plus speed. He also used the field advantageously, showing the ability to go both pull and oppo on a nearly equal level. While still multiple years away with more to prove especially as he comes stateside presumably next season, there is no doubt that Chourio has multiple tools the Twins can nurture to their advantage. This was a good piece for them to bet the over on.
While the Marlins got a piece that will surely enhance the top of their lineup, they will be sacrificing defense for offense as Arraez will reportedly play second base. Arraez has spent less and less time at second base over the years and owns a -1 DRS for his career at the four spot on the infield.
With that said, Arraez will step into the Marlins’ lineup and immediately become the best all around on base threat the Marlins have. Due to his offensive acumen, Arraez should be able to hold onto his reputation as a plus multiple WAR player who will push the Marlins closer to competition in a very difficult division for at least the next three years.
But he came at a price unsuspecting of many outlets, including this one.
The Marlins not only gave up a top three starting pitcher and one of the best control pitchers in baseball who has a burgeoning arsenal as he enters his prime years, they also gave up two very projectable prospects: one for the shorter term and one for the longer term. The Twins positioned themselves for the now, the near-now and the future in this deal and objectively won the trade. But, to get their guy that they believe will make them much more competitive immediately and for the next three years, Miami will honor that price tag.