Twins trade batting champ Arraez to Marlins for Pablo López

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Luis Arraez was taking a nap after a workout when he got a call and was told the Minnesota Twins had traded him to the Miami Marlins.

“I was surprised,” he said, “but this is baseball. This is a business. I’m ready to go now. I’m a Marlin and I’m excited to be here.”

The Twins traded the reigning AL batting champion to the Marlins for a three-player package featuring starting pitcher Pablo Lopez.

Lopez should bolster an already deep Twins rotation, albeit one that’s absent a true ace. He’ll slot in with Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan and perhaps Bailey Ober. This has been an eventful month for the Twins, having re-signed shortstop Carlos Correa.

“I’m really excited about coming to this team, the leaders they have in the clubhouse and the players they have to support each other,” Lopez said on a video interview with reporters. “It’s a mentality that really motivates me too. I ask and expect more of myself when it comes to my performance and the ways I can help out the team.”

The 25-year-old Arraez had a breakout season for Minnesota last year, making his first All-Star team while batting a league-best .316 and denying Aaron Judge a Triple Crown. The Yankees star led the AL in home runs and RBIs and finished five points behind Arraez in batting average.

Arraez is a multi-positional player who spent most of his time at first base for the Twins last year, starting 61 games there, 34 at designated hitter and 31 at second base. He has also played extensively at third base and left field.

Marlins general manager Kim Ng said Arraez is expected to play second base for Miami, and Jazz Chisolm Jr, who has mainly played second base during his major league career with the Marlins, will move to center field.

The Twins also received two prospects from the Marlins: infielder Jose Salas and outfielder Byron Chourio. The 19-year-old Salas, who finished last season with Miami’s high Class A affiliate, was picked as the organization’s fifth-best prospect in the most recent MLB Pipeline rankings. The 17-year-old Chourio, also a native of Venezuela, played in the Dominican Summer League last season after signing with the Marlins organization in June.

Arraez will give the Marlins three years of contract control. This is his first year of salary arbitration eligibility. He was the only Twins player who didn’t settle at the deadline last week, asking for $6.1 million in 2023 while the team offered $5 million.

The native of Venezuela became a fan favorite for his persistence and patience at the plate, as tough of an out as there has been in baseball in recent years with only 131 strikeouts in 1,569 career plate appearances. He has only 14 home runs over four seasons, but his career on-base percentage is .374.

Twins fans who are old enough might also have winced when the club traded reigning AL batting champion Rod Carew after the 1978 season, albeit with far different circumstances.

“Anytime you have a player that’s well liked in the environment, who you know is going to go work and do it every day which we got to see with Luis, it makes it harder,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “We’d love to have Luis and Pablo on our team, but to get something as impactful as what Pablo brings to our team, you have to give something impactful.”

The 26-year-old Lopez had a 3.75 ERA in 32 starts last season. He threw a career-high 180 innings. Over the last two seasons, he had 289 strikeouts in 282 2/3 innings.

“When you trade anyone it’s always difficult, particularly when you’re talking about someone like Pablo,” Ng said. “Just a first-class guy, tremendous human being. He’s done a lot for the Marlins organization.”

Maeda, Gray, Mahle and Ryan were all acquired in recent trades, too, and whether minor-leaguers or major-leaguers the Twins have had to part with several valuable players to get them.

“I don’t care where they come from. We need really good starters and we need really good pitchers,” Falvey said. “The goal here is to continue to deepen your starting rotation and pitching staff however we can do it.”

Falvey listed Ober sixth when he mentioned the group in a video interview. He said the Twins have discussed a six-man rotation but weren’t “ready to stamp that yet.” Injuries ravaged the rotation last year, so chances are the Twins will need more than six starters over the course of 2023.

The deal makes sense for Miami, which has a strong pitching rotation highlighted by NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara, and newly acquired right-hander Johnny Cueto. The Marlins struggled at the plate last season, though, batting .230 in 2022, and had been looking to add another hitter to their lineup after signing former Philadelphia infielder Jean Segura. Miami also recently traded shortstop Miguel Rojas to the Dodgers.

“We’ve talked about it quite often, wanting to add offense this offseason,” Ng said. “We’re willing to trade some of our pitching to do it. What we get in Luis Arraez is a left-handed, very good hitter.”

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”