Twins Bolster Pitching Staff Just Before Trade Deadline
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins stocked up their sputtering pitching staff ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline by acquiring All-Star closer Jorge López in a deal with the Baltimore Orioles and starter Tyler Mahle in a swap with the Cincinnati Reds, giving up a total of seven prospects.
The 29-year-old López is in the middle of a breakout season for the Orioles, with a sparkling 1.68 ERA and 19 of his 20 career saves. The 27-year-old Mahle is 5-7 with a 4.40 ERA in 19 starts with 114 strikeouts over 104 1/3 innings for the Reds.
The Twins, who took a one-game lead in the AL Central into their game on Tuesday night, have a 5.30 team ERA since the All-Star break.
López joins a Twins team that has been desperate to find reliable late-inning options beyond Jhoan Duran. Griffin Jax has been a find after his conversion from a starting role in 2021, but Emilio Pagan was recently moved into lower-leverage situations and Tyler Duffey has an ERA (4.57) almost two runs higher than his cumulative total of the previous three seasons.
Mahle will help shore up a rotation that has been ravaged by injuries, with Bailey Ober, Josh Winder, Chris Paddack, Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak all sidelined. The Twins acquired Mahle's former teammate, Sonny Gray, in a March trade with the Reds.
Baltimore received minor league pitchers Cade Povich, Yennier Cano, Juan Nuñez and Juan Rojas from Minnesota for López. Only Cano has major league experience, but Povich was a third-round draft pick last year.
Cincinnati got the bigger haul of minor leaguers — infielders Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Spencer Steer, and left-handed pitcher Steve Hajjar.
Including 2021 first-rounder Chase Petty, who went to the Reds for Gray, the Twins have now traded four of their first five picks from last year's draft. Hajjar, Povich and Encarnacion-Strand went in the second, third and fourth rounds, respectively.
The surprising Orioles are in the mix for an AL wild card, just 2 1/2 games out of the final spot entering play on Tuesday. But they traded slugger Trey Mancini to Houston as part of a three-team deal on Monday before shipping López to the AL Central leaders.
“This team, it was a little different than the last two, and I mean it a lot. These guys really take care of business, and that really taught me a lot,” López said. “I feel emotional, and I hope for success for everyone to just keep going.”
The Twins under President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey have preferred to avoid short-term rentals, typically prioritizing in trades players they can contractually control for more than a year, and López satisfies that goal.
“Just completely life-changing. I’m just really thankful for the Orioles and what they’ve been doing, and I’m glad it’s coming to a new chapter with the Minnesota Twins,” López said on a conference call with reporters before a scheduled flight to Minnesota. “They’ve got a really good group, and I’m going to do anything I can to keep competing.”
Making $1.5 million this season, López is arbitration-eligible in each of the next two winters and can’t become a free agent until after the World Series in 2024.
With 17 walks, 54 strikeouts and a .174 opponent batting average in 48 1/3 innings, López has produced quite the turnaround after taking a 6.04 career ERA into this season. He previously split his time between starter and reliever, but full-time focus on a late-game role has served him well.
“When you get a new opportunity, you keep learning at your uncomfortable things," López said. “Just put yourself in the position where you can just stay positive and you can do this, so I’m really thankful for all the hard work we did. Just can’t wait to get to this team and do the same thing.”
López previously pitched for Milwaukee and Kansas City. The native of Puerto Rico was a second-round draft pick by the Brewers in 2011 and made his major league debut in 2015.
Cano, a 28-year-old right-hander from Cuba, made his major league debut in May and was sent back to Triple-A St. Paul on Monday. He had a 9.22 ERA in 10 appearances for the Twins and will report to Triple-A Norfolk.
The 22-year-old Povich is 6-8 with a 4.46 ERA in 16 starts at High-A Cedar Rapids this season. The left-hander is the most touted player going to the Orioles, currently ranked as the No. 22 prospect in the Twins' organization by MLB.com. He's going to High-A Aberdeen.
The 18-year-old Rojas and the 21-year-old Nunez have been assigned to the Orioles' team in the Florida Complex League.