Luis Arraez stepped into the batter’s box looking to make history. Arraez already completed the difficult part, just needing a single to hit for the first cycle in Miami Marlins history.
Andrew Bellati delivered a 2-1 changeup, which Arraez lined into left field for a single. In the Marlins 4,700th game as a franchise, Arraez hit for the first cycle in franchise history in his 12th game as a Marlin.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Pablo Lopez continued his dominance on the mound for the Twins. Against his new division rival, the Chicago White Sox, Lopez pitched 7.2 innings in which he gave up three hits, two earned runs and struck out 10 batters.
Through his first three starts as a Twin, Lopez has a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings pitched — ace-level production the team desperately lacked last season.
How Pablo Lopez and Luis Arraez have benefitted their new teams after a trade
On January 20, the Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins agreed to a trade that sent Arraez to Miami, while Lopez, along with prospects Jose Salas (the Twins’ ninth-ranked prospect) and Byron Chourio were sent to Minnesota. Despite Arraez and Lopez being integral players for their respective former teams, the trade was necessary for both sides, and it has proven to be thus far.
In 2022, Arraez the American League batting title hitting .316. As a team in 2022, the Marlins had a .294 on base percentage, the fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. Had Arraez been a Marlin in 2022, he would’ve led the team (minimum 200 plate appearances) in BA and OBP while ranking second in SLG, OPS and wRC+ (all behind Jazz Chisholm Jr.).
In addition to adding much needed production to Miami, Arraez brings a much different approach to its lineup. Of Miami’s 14 players with at least 200 PAs in 2022, 11 had a K% over 20% and half of them had a contact% lower than 75%.
Arraez led MLB with a 94.1 contact% and had the lowest K% striking out a 7.1% clip. Every time Arraez steps up to the plate, he’s a difficult player to get out — not something you can say about free-swinging Marlin hitters like Chisholm Jr., Jorge Soler, Avisail Garcia and Bryan De La Cruz.
Additionally, the Marlins traded from a surplus to land Arraez, immediately a top hitter on their team. Alongside Lopez in the Marlins would’ve been 2022 NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, and Trevor Rodgers with Sixto Sanchez and Max Meyer potentially becoming contributors in the near future. Simply, the Marlins had too many starters at or near the major leagues and needed to make a trade to acquire offensive help.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Twins were dealing with a completely different situation. Led by Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, the Twins offense had star power plus a slew of high-end depth players such as Jose Miranda, Jorge Polanco, Joey Gallo and Max Kepler.
Losing Arraez was a blow to their lineup, but it was a necessary trade to bolster their starting rotation. Last season, the Twins rotation ranked 20th in MLB with a 4.11 ERA while ranking ninth with a 107 team wRC+. While the Twins have a variety of quality starting pitchers in Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda, none of these pitchers have true “ace” potential.
Enter Lopez, who immediately stepped in as the team’s Opening Day starter. With the Marlins, Lopez broke out in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and he hasn’t looked past since. From 2020-2022, Lopez pitched to a 3.52 ERA.
Despite having a 96 Stuff+ (Eno Sarris model) from 2020-2022, which ranked 46/76 among qualified starters in that timespan, Lopez is effective because of his ability to generate chases, groundballs and weak contact.
Lopez generated a 35.8 O-swing%, the percentage of pitches swings at pitches outside the strike zone, which was the seventh best among qualified starters from 2020-2022. When opposing hitters did make contact against Lopez, it usually wasn’t hit well, as his 87.2 mph exit velocity was the ninth lowest and his 47.4 ground ball% ranked 18th among qualified starters from 2020-2022.
Lopez has the tools to be a high end starting pitcher, it’s just a matter of staying on the field. Since he made his major league debut in 2018, Lopez has only started 25 or more games in his career once (in 2022). The Twins, who experienced a significant amount of injuries to their starting rotation last year, need a full season of Lopez to contend for a postseason spot.
It may be early, but the Marlins and Twins trade looks like a win-win.