Twins Notes: Rotation, Ober, Arraez

The dust is still settling in the aftermath of the Twins’ big four-player trade with the Marlins this past week, as Luis Arraez was sent to Miami in exchange for right-hander Pablo Lopez and prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio.  The move shook up Minnesota’s lineup and added yet another external arm to the Twins’ rotation.

As noted by Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, all five members of the projected starting five (Lopez, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, and Kenta Maeda) were all acquired in trades over the last three years.  Chris Paddack is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery but was also acquired in a trade with the Padres prior to last season, while Simeon Woods Richardson is another arm on the depth arm that came to the Twins as part of the deal that sent Jose Berrios to the Blue Jays at the 2021 trade deadline.

While it is somewhat unusual for a team to built its rotation entirely via the trade market, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey was blunt in telling reporters (including Miller and Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) that, “I don’t care where [the starters] come from.  We need really good starters and we need really good pitchers.  Some of those are going to be free-agent signings, some of those are going to be trades, and some of those will also hopefully be from development.  But the goal here is to continue to deepen the starting rotation and pitching staff however we can do it.”

Bailey Ober is a homegrown product, selected by the Twins in the twelfth round of the 2017 draft.  The right-hander has pitched well in 148 1/3 innings and 31 starts over the last two seasons, though Lopez’s addition seemingly pushes Ober out of the rotation mix for now.  Of course, rotations rarely stay healthy for an entire season, leaving opportunity for Ober or other pitchers like Woods Richardson, Josh Winder, Louie Varland, etc. to make some starts if one of the top five needs to visit the injured list.

There’s also a chance that the starting five becomes a starting six, as adopting a six-man rotation is “something we talk about a lot,” Falvey admitted.  Minnesota’s depth gives the team the flexibility to shift to a six-man rotation if necessary, and “I will tell you that our hope right now is that we will go with five starters, and we feel like we have five good ones…but ultimately [we] have some depth behind it to make sure that we’re in a good place.”  If everyone stays healthy and the Twins do end up with a surplus of starting candidates, Falvey described that potential scenario as “a great problem to have.”

The Lopez trade closes the book on Arraez’s tenure with the Twins, as the infielder went from being a fairly unknown prospect to being an All-Star, Silver Slugger winner, and AL batting champion in 2022.  Arraez was already a strong performer in the three years prior to his big 2022 campaign, but his performance did dip a bit in an injury-shortened 2021 season.  In the wake of that relative down year, Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that the Twins had some talks with Arraez about a long-term extension, but Arraez turned the club down.

As a Super Two player, Arraez is eligible for four trips through the arbitration process, and he and the Twins avoided a hearing in Arraez’s first year of arb-eligibility by agreeing to a $2.125MM salary for the 2022 season.  While the terms of Minnesota’s extension offer aren’t known, it is fair to guess that the Twins were looking for a deal that would’ve covered all four of those arbitration years, as well as at least one of Arraez’s free agent years.  Signing such a contract would’ve locked in a nice guarantee for Arraez, and the first major payday of a career that began with a modest $40K bonus as an international signing.

But, Arraez opted to instead bet on himself to rebound from his 2021 season, and that self-confidence paid off nicely.  Prior to the trade, Arraez and the Twins were headed to an arbitration hearing after not being able to reach a salary agreement before the arbitration figure-exchange deadline — Arraez is looking for a $6.1MM salary, while the Twins countered with $5MM.  It seems possible that the Marlins might still go to a hearing with Arraez due to general front office principle, even if an arbitration hearing would be something of an awkward start to the relationship between the infielder and his new team.

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