MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins bolstered their bullpen ahead of the trade deadline by acquiring All-Star closer Jorge Lopez in a deal with the Baltimore Orioles for four pitching prospects.
The 29-year-old Lopez is in the middle of a breakout season, with a sparkling 1.68 ERA and 19 of his 20 career saves.
“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 Minnesota Twins,” Lopez 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.”
Lopez joins a Twins team that had a 3.84 relief ERA entering Tuesday night’s game against Detroit, with Jhoan Duran the lone late-inning option who has been consistently reliable this year. 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.
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 Lopez 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,” Lopez said. “I feel emotional, and I hope for success for everyone to just keep going.”
Baltimore received minor league pitchers Cade Povich, Yennier Cano, Juan Nunez and Juan Rojas from Minnesota in the deal. Only Cano has major league experience.
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 Lopez satisfies that goal.
Making $1.5 million this season, Lopez 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, Lopez 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 the 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,” Lopez 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.”
Lopez 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, a third-round pick in last year’s draft, 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.