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  • Assessing the Twins Trade for Jorge Lopez


    Ted Schwerzler

    The key area of focus this trade deadline for the Minnesota Twins had to be on the mound. You could divide that between that rotation and bullpen, but an influx of talent was necessary in both places. With the first domino falling, Minnesota began in relief acquiring All-Star closer Jorge Lopez from the Baltimore Orioles.

    Image courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

     

     

    There’s been no denying that Rocco Baldelli needs additional arms at the back of his bullpen. Whether it’s Wes Johnson or Pete Maki helping to set up the pecking order, it’s basically been pray on Jhoan Duran or hope for rain. Griffin Jax has stepped up, and Tyler Duffey has even trended in the right direction. Emilio Pagan has been a flop though, and Caleb Thielbar hasn’t posted numbers in line with his metrics.

    In Jorge Lopez, Minnesota gets an All-Star reliever that owns a miniscule 1.68 ERA along with a 2.99 FIP. His 10.1 K/9 will immediately be among the best in Minnesota’s bullpen, and his 19 saves reflect an ability to pitch in high leverage. Lopez may be ripe for some small regression as his xERA sits at 2.99 and his xFIP is 3.10. Both marks would be a substantial upgrade for the Twins unit, however.

    What we know about this version of Lopez presents a smaller sample size. He was claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals in 2020. Even with the stellar 2022, his career ERA sits at 5.51. With a career 35.6% hard hit rate, the 19.8% mark he’s posted in 2022 stands out as a massive leap forward.

    The major difference for Lopez is that he’s now working out of the pen rather than starting. He has jumped his average fastball velocity nearly two mph to 97.4 mph this season. Instead of continuing to throw a traditional fastball though, Lopez now has become primarily a sinker-curveball pitcher with the two offerings combining to dominate more than 70% of his arsenal.

    Minnesota is taking a gamble on 48 1/3 innings being reflective of who Lopez is now, which is to say one of baseball’s best relievers, but they’ll have time to see him settle in as well. Rentals aren’t of significant interest to the Twins during this deadline, and Lopez isn’t a free agent until 2025.

    Grabbing a reliever like this would always come with a relatively substantial cost. Minnesota was forced to part with 2021 3rd round pick Cade Povich. Drafted out of Nebraska, Povich is seen as a mid-to-back-end starter. The 4.46 ERA at High-A Cedar Rapids isn’t shiny, but he’s got a gaudy 12.2 K/9 and has allowed just 3.0 BB/9. Probably a bit underrated on Minnesota prospect lists, he has looked the part of a very solid selection.

    Providing some Major League-ready talent to Baltimore as well, Minnesota is sending Cuban Yennier Cano. Signed back in 2019 as an international free agent, Cano is now 28-years-old. The stuff has played wonderfully for him at Triple-A St. Paul, where he owns a 1.90 ERA across 23 2/3 innings. His 9.5 K/9 there also is something to be excited about translating. Unfortunately he’s been hit around in less-than-deal spots when called up to the Twins, and has routinely been on the shuttle back and forth across town. He’s been assigned to Triple-A Norfolk for the Orioles, but a consistent pen role the rest of the way could help him to settle in.

    Completing the deal is 18-year-old Juan Rojas and 21-year-old Juan Nunez. Rojas is a lefty making his stateside debut this season in the Florida Complex League. He owns a 3.60 ERA across 30 innings and owns an impressive 38/4 K/BB. Nunez is right-handed, also making his stateside debut, and owns a 4.85 ERA across 29 2/3 innings. While he’s given up more hits and run production, Nunez also has an impressive 47/10 K/BB while allowing just two homers.

    It’s hard not to see this deal as a win for both sides in significantly different ways. Trading a closer when you’re not seriously in contention makes a good deal of sense. The Orioles are working with found money in that their acquisition cost of Lopes was nothing more than a waiver claim. Minnesota then gets an arm that can immediately slot into the back end of their bullpen and help to shore up among the biggest deficiencies for this club.

    Povich is absolutely the headliner here, and he could wind up being something similar to Josh Winder or Bailey Ober. At least a couple of years from that promise, tying him to two complete lottery tickets and a project in Cano, there’s no reason the Twins should have any questions about looking back on this one. Should Lopez continue development as a reliever with the Minnesota coaching staff, he’ll be an easy candidate to tender deals to each of the next two winters.

    What is your assessment of this trade? 

     

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    This is a good-faith effort on part of FO to improve the rancid performance of the BP. It's a gamble,  but so are all trades. The trade value for effective relievers is high. Twins were willing to pay a price in prospects, for controlled expense for 2.25 seasons. For their model of roster mgmt, this is a good fit, and good trade. Now just hope this guy performs as well as the #'s indicate. 

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    This is what you get forced to do when you don't make getting higher octane arms a priority and just role with what you have in the offseason.  I hate losing Povich who had a decent chance to be a good lefty starter and most certainly a solid bullpen arm.  Cano while not perfect could end being a very productive reliever for the O's and  if they can make Cano work he could be a good get in and of himself.  If not then they still have Povich.  The last time a team dipped into our FSL pool I believe the Yankee's managed to get Luis Gil a hard throwing youngster with upside so those lottery tickets could turn into something as well.  You just never know.

    That being said Cano wasn't going to help the Twins in the right here, right now and in the end might have been lost for nothing. So if he was something that moved the needle on this trade then at least that is something.  The two lottery tickets are a looong ways a way and the odds they make it slim. If that is what it took then you just do it.  It hurts to lose Povich but this team absolutely, positively needed some help on the back end and this guy looks like a good bet to help put the Twins over the hump right now.

    Ultimately I like this trade for the Twins.  They get an asset they desperately need for this season and the next two.  He is a hard thrower to compliment Duran and if Alcala ever returns then the Twins have three hard throwers to put out there a long with Jax and maybe Canterino next year as well.  This is a solid move to help the pen long term and also give this team a chance at the division this year.  Baring injury I am certain the O's will win this trade long term but when you make trades for the present you lose the future that is just the way this works.  Kind of nice to be on this end of it for a change though.

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    I'm a fan of this. Povich was a decent prospect, but there's a real chance that in a few years the Twins would be doing the same thing with him that the O's had to do with Lopez: move him to the bullpen and hope that shorter stints with a reduced pitch mix gets him success. They have an opportunity to win now with a quality lineup (when healthy) and needed a quality RHP to help shut down games close & late. Lopez fits the bill and isn't just a rental. He's worth it. 

    Cano is awfully wild. He'll get some guys out and have some blowups. I expect him to bounce around. No big deal. The other two pitchers are just lottery tickets. It's fine.

    Tough move for the O's: they're still contending, and seem to have given up. Even if they have a low chance to pull it off, their fanbase is so beaten down that pulling the rug out from under them is pretty cruel.

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    I don't know. I really can't judge povich and his potential but I certainly have liked what has been written on the TD Pages. 

    At least it has the potential to be a positive for the bullpen and that is a good thing. 

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    Fair trade. I like it a ton. I had hoped for two Lopez pitchers but a reliever was essential and we hope Jorge can continue his fine season. Baltimore gets a good LHSP, a potentially useful relief pitcher, and two lotto tickets. The Twins needed a good relief pitcher and they got a really good one; it is awesome for us.

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    This. Was. A. GREAT. TRADE !!!  Povich may or may not make it.  The other guys are less than lottery tickets.

    I'm not sure why the Orioles did this but I couldn't be happier.  Lopez will NOT turn into a pumpkin. 

    He's found his home as a solid BP arm. 

    It would be just like Rocco to use him primarily in the 6th inning

    (since Rocco doesn't really know how to manage a BP or clearly define the roles BP pitchers should have). 

    This kind of move is JUST what the Twins needed.  

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    Great trade day overall because it greatly expands the options for how to use Bundy and Archer. In a playoff series both now can be either a starter or a long reliever if a starter exits early. Before today, your option was Griffen Jax, and then...who?

    Now they can turn to a couple starters, Jax, or even Duran, knowing that the ninth inning is pretty secure in the hands of Jorge Lopez. 

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    I am fully on board with this trade. 

    They needed a back end arm and ended up with 2.5 years of cheap control of one who has been awesome his first year in the role.  I am hoping the Twins just found their Liam Hendriks,  back end starter becoming a real bullpen weapon when they focus on pitch mix and throwing 100%.

    Povich hurts but a 10-20 starter and 3 wild card relievers is a price I am well willing to live with.

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    12 hours ago, ashbury said:

    A waiver wire pickup.  This is what our FO keeps trying for.  Instead, they have to part with non-trivial prospect capital.  In the moment, a reasonable trade.  A little nervous that Lopez turns back into a pumpkin, reliever versus starter notwithstanding.

    Liam Hendricks was at one time a waiver wire pickup.  Relievers are fickle.  Many /most? are failed starters. 

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    The Twins are a better team today than they were 2 days ago, partly due to this trade. The AL Central is there for the Twins to take. The Twins had to obtain several relievers and they did so. Lopez was the key. I watched a really great video showing his 9 year old son, who has health problems, watching his dad pitch. It was beautiful Welcome to the Twins family, Jorge Lopez and your family. 

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    For me, this is pretty much what TD fans have been asking for.  We needed to shore up the pen, and we needed an upgrade at SP.  We did that without giving up Larnach, Kirilloff, Miranda, Martin, Balozovich, Winder, Lewis etc.  It shows that we want to win now, while we are in fist place in Aug.  Will it be enough?  No one knows, but we really didn't give up the future.  We still have a very young team that should be no worse next year with maybe more money to spend in FA.  It just looks like a very strong effort by this front office.  I say kudos.  Could it have been better?  Sure, but we weren't the only ones buying here,  and we also aren't the richest be it prospect capital, or payroll limit.  Again, I say kudos to the front office.  Whether it works out or not,  we did what could reasonably be expected, and clamored for on this fan site for months.

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    9 hours ago, jimbo92107 said:

    Great trade day overall because it greatly expands the options for how to use Bundy and Archer. In a playoff series both now can be either a starter or a long reliever if a starter exits early. Before today, your option was Griffen Jax, and then...who?

    Now they can turn to a couple starters, Jax, or even Duran, knowing that the ninth inning is pretty secure in the hands of Jorge Lopez. 

    I think Duran should be the main closer. IMO Lopez as top setup/backup closer.

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    8 hours ago, Karbo said:

    I think Duran should be the main closer. IMO Lopez as top setup/backup closer.

    I agree they should be prepared to swap rolls as setup and closer. However, in his very first appearance Wednesday, Lopez displayed a level of command that we rarely see from Duran. He was picking low corners with both his fastball and his slider to end the game. Those Detroit batters looked absolutely helpless. What do you do when a pitcher can nail the corners at that velocity? Twins should offer this guy a new contract asap. They might just have another Nathan/Aguilera kinda guy (mediocre starter becomes star closer). Too bad they missed on Liam Hendricks, but on the other hand, he really, really wanted to be a starter, so the Twinkies gave him every chance....

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