The first-place Twins are bringing in reinforcements as they try to hang on to their AL Central lead
The first-place Minnesota Twins are making moves at the 2022 MLB trade deadline. Minnesota first agreed to a five-player trade with the Baltimore Orioles for All-Star closer Jorge López. The Orioles will receive four players in return: left-handers Cade Povich and Juan Rojas and right-handers Yennier Cano and Juan Nuñez, the teams announced Tuesday.
Later in the day, the Twins also added starting pitcher Tyler Mahle from the Reds in a deal that sends three prospects back to Cincinnati. The return for the Reds on this one is infielder Spencer Steer, third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand and left-handed pitcher Steven Hajjar.
López, 29 years old, recently made his first career All-Star Game in the midst of a breakout season. In 44 games with the Orioles, he has posted a 1.68 ERA (241 ERA+) and a 3.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those are remarkable improvements over his career marks entering this season, when he had amassed a 6.04 ERA (76 ERA+) and a 2.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 102 games with three other organizations.
López’s improved performance has been accompanied by a number of other changes to his game. Not only is he throwing his sinker harder this season, with its average velocity up from 95 mph to 98 mph, he’s also throwing the pitch more frequently. Indeed, his 50 percent usage rate this season would mark a new career-high.
Clearly the Twins are believers in López sustaining those gains. They’ll have him under team control for an additional two seasons, too, meaning this could be more than the typical deadline rental situation.
Mahle is 27 and is under team control through next season, so this isn’t a rental. He’s 5-7 with a 4.40 ERA (104 ERA+), 3.60 FIP, 1.25 WHIP and 114 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings this season. He was 13-6 with a 3.75 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 180 innings last season and has resembled a mid-rotation workhorse for the last three seasons or so.
In return for López, the Orioles netted four pitchers.
- Povich, 22, was the Twins’ third-round pick in 2021. He’s amassed a 4.46 ERA and a 4.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 starts in High-A this season. Povich was ranked as the Twins’ 21st-best prospect by Baseball America. They noted that he has a projectable frame and a four-pitch mix.
- Cano, 28, made his big-league debut earlier this season. In 10 outings in the majors, he struck out more than a batter per inning. He also issued 11 walks in 13 frames. Cano throws a mid-90s sinker, an upper-80s slider, and a 90 mph changeup from a low three-quarters release point.
- Nuñez, 21, has made eight appearances in complex ball this season. He has a 4.85 ERA and a 4.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio to show for his troubles. He was not ranked by Baseball America as one of the top 30 prospects in the Twins system.
- Rojas, 18, has also made eight appearances in complex ball. He has a 3.60 ERA and a 9.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He too did not make the cut for Baseball America’s top 30 rankings.
As for the package going to the Reds:
- Steer, 24, played in the Futures Game a few weeks ago. Between Double-A (35 games) and Triple-A (48 games) this season, he’s hitting .269/.361/.528 with 23 doubles, two triples, 20 home runs, 62 RBI, 66 runs and three steals. He’s played second, third and shortstop this season, with most of his time spent at third base.
- Encarnacion-Strand, 22, was a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2021. In 74 games for High-A Cedar Rapids this season, he hit .296/.370/.599 with 23 doubles, three triples, 20 homers, 68 RBI, 52 runs and seven steals. A few weeks ago, he was promoted to Double-A and he’s gone 18 for 54 (.333) with two doubles, a triple, five home runs, 17 RBI and 11 runs in just 13 games since.
- Hajjar, 21, was the Twins’ second-round pick out of the University of Michigan last year. In 13 starts for Class-A Fort Myers this year, he’s 2-2 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings.