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Marlins trade Pablo López to Twins for Luis Arraez

The Marlins bundled a pair of teenage hitters with López to acquire an elite contact hitter and reigning American League batting champ.

Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch during the second inning against the New York Mets at loanDepot park on September 10, 2022 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins have traded Pablo López and teenage position players José Salas and Byron Chourio to the Minnesota Twins for Luis Arraez. The Athletic first reported that the deal was nearing the finish line after being rumored to be a possibility earlier in the offseason.

I expressed my complete thoughts about the blockbuster in a Fish Stripes Twitter Space, so please listen back to that if you missed it live. Long story short, I gave it a C grade from the Marlins’ perspective. It obviously raises the floor of their offense in 2023, but Miami’s mediocre farm system is now extremely thin on the position player side. It signals that the organization is determined to win games now...yet the major league roster still has voids to fill in center field and high-leverage relief, I explained.

But that was merely my initial reaction. Addressing the media Friday afternoon, general manager Kim Ng announced that Jazz Chisholm Jr. is preparing to play center field regularly. He certainly has the agility normally associated with the position. However, he has had zero experience in any of the outfield spots as a professional.

Chisholm has previously cited Ken Griffey Jr. as a baseball role model of his. The Hall of Famer’s influence is evident in the way that Jazz follows through on his swing. This position change could take those comparisons to a new level if the Bahamian All-Star can figure out the nuances of center field defense while staying healthy.

Originally acquired from the Mariners in 2017’s David Phelps trade, López started 94 games for the Marlins over the last five seasons. The Venezuelan right-hander has battled recurring right shoulder issues during his career, but he put those behind him in 2022 by making all 32 of his scheduled starts. López was the National League’s Pitcher of the Month for April, struggled throughout much of the summer, then ended his Marlins tenure on a high note with back-to-back-to-back-to-back quality starts. He relied on the four-seam fastball and changeup as his putaway pitches and also got encouraging results with his curveball in limited usage (.084 wOBA against).

López has posted a 3.94 ERA and 3.77 FIP in 510 career innings pitched in the majors. He turns 27 during spring training and has two remaining years of club control.

Before getting moved to Minnesota, López drew interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays (among others) at various points over the past year or so.

The 2022 American League batting champion, Arraez is baseball’s best contact hitter (at least among those with substantial MLB roles—sorry, Willians Astudillo).

Arraez can contribute at a handful of defensive positions, though Kim Ng says second base will be his primary defensive home. He made 31 starts there in 2022 and 139 total during his MLB career. By Statcast’s out above average, his glove has gradually improved at second (from -11 OAA in 2019 to 1 OAA last season).

Arraez turns 26 shortly after Opening Day and has three remaining years of club control.

In the opinion of most talent evaluators, Salas was a top-five prospect in the Marlins farm system. The club’s most expensive signing from the 2019-20 international free agent period, he split last season between Low-A Jupiter (123 wRC+) and High-A Beloit (88 wRC+) before being challenged in the Arizona Fall League as a 19-year-old. Baseball Prospectus just ranked him 93rd overall on their MLB top prospects list, though other outlets have him outside the top 100.

The Venezuelan-born Chourio posted an impressive .344/.429/.410 slash line in 51 Dominican Summer League games during his first professional season. He turns 18 in May.

The Marlins have not shown an appetite for making long-term commitments to individual pitchers, with Sandy Alcantara as the obvious exception. So long as that philosophy sticks, it’s only natural that the front office will entertain trades involving starters once they enter their arbitration years.

With less than a month until spring training begins, the Marlins have a projected starting rotation of Sandy Alcantara, Jesús Luzardo, Johnny Cueto, Edward Cabrera and Trevor Rogers/Braxton Garrett, with Eury Pérez looming as a midseason reinforcement. That group sans López still has fantastic upside.

This trade has a minimal impact on Miami’s 2023 payroll. López agreed to a $5.45 million salary to avoid arbitration. Arraez couldn’t reach an agreement with the Twins, filing at $6.1 million while the club filed at $5 million. He’ll head to an arbitration hearing in the coming weeks.

Fish Stripes original GIF

The last time these teams consummated a trade with one another was in 2019, when the Marlins packaged Sergio Romo, Chris Vallimont and cash for Lewin Díaz.

The Marlins had recently been pursuing free agent first baseman Yuli Gurriel. It’d be intriguing to have a lineup with each of the last two AL batting champs, but Arraez’s acquisition makes Gurriel’s fit harder to envision.