Last season couldn’t have gone any better for Luis Arráez: American League batting champion, All-Star, Silver Slugger, etc. He was one of the few MLB players to have more walks than strikeouts in 2022. No qualified batters in the league were better than Arráez at making contact, as indicated by his 100th percentile whiff rate.
The Venezuelan’s unique skillset guarantees a high on-base percentage year after year—last season’s .375 OBP was almost the same as his career average (.374 OBP). He was also valuable to the Minnesota Twins thanks to his versatility to move around the infield and play in the outfield if necessary. In 2022, Arráez split time between the first and second base with a lot of games at DH late in the year.
A Domino has fallen
On Jan. 20, the Miami Marlins made a trade to acquire Luis Arráez. In return, the Minnesota Twins acquired Pablo López, Jose Salas, and Byron Chourio.
The Twins are no strangers to this kind of deal. Rod Carew was also dealt 44 years ago after winning the batting title the previous season.
Luis Arraez: 5th batting champ to change teams in following offseason in divisional era (1969), joining:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) January 20, 2023
2011 Jose Reyes: NYM to MIA, FA
1990 Willie McGee: OAK to SF, FA (but won w/STL!)
1978 Rod Carew: MIN to CAL, Trade
1976 Bill Madlock: CHC to SF, Trade
A couple of hours after the trade was made official, Kim Ng announced that Arráez will be the team's starting second baseman and that Jazz Chisholm Jr. would be going to center field.
Arráez was beloved in Minnesota having spent his entire professional career in their organization. He was always known for being good with the fans, highly regarded in the Twins clubhouse and by players around the league. Personally, Arráez left a very good impression after we spoke to him during the night of the trade.
The Twins were unable to settle on a salary with the arbitration-eligible Arráez. They filed at $5M while he filed at $6.1M. The case went to an arbitration hearing earlier this month and Arráez won. He will be the fourth-highest-paid position player on the Marlins this season behind Jorge Soler, Avisaíl García and Jean Segura.
World Baseball Classic
Arráez is representing his native Venezuela in the 2023 WBC alongside new teammate Jesús Luzardo and the man he was traded for, Pablo López. The team begins the tournament in Group D, which is being hosted at LoanDepot Park. No matter how deep Venezuela goes, Arráez will remain in South Florida.
In the prime of his career entering his age-26 season, Arráez will be an everyday player for the Marlins. He should be an option for the leadoff spot—batting first in 2022, Arráez slashed .299/.349/.404/.754. He is obviously better against right-handed pitching, but solid against lefties, too (.265/.331/.354/.685).
Although he has experience all around the diamond, Arráez mentioned to the media that he is excited about finally having second base all to himself and focus on that one position. He has played 169 career games at second. Statcast’s outs above average metric believes he’s been improving as a defender there over the course of his career.
A taste of Luis Arraez's defense at 2nd base! pic.twitter.com/k49lMxFv7Y— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) January 23, 2023
Arráez is a fan of LoanDepot Park and other retractable/closed-roof stadiums. As somebody who uses the whole field rather than always trying to blast home runs, the ballpark’s reputation for being pitcher-friendly shouldn’t bother him that much.
It might be unfair to expect Arráez to repeat as a league batting champ, but ZiPS projects him to have MLB’s best average at .311. At the very least, he’s capable of being one of Miami’s top offensive players in 2023.