Marlins Acquire Batting Champ Luis Arraez
The Marlins made a bold acquisition on Friday, picking up reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez from the Twins in exchange for right-hander Pablo Lopez, minor league infielder Jose Salas and minor league outfielder Byron Chourio.
The Marlins have made a targeted effort to acquire high-contact hitters this off-season and they had been reportedly talking to the Twins since the middle of October in an attempt to pry Arraez away. The 25-year-old is unquestionably one of the top contact hitters in the league – as he posted an absurdly-low 7.1% strikeout rate in 2022 – and owns an 8.3% rate for his career.
While Arraez is a terrific real-life player and a nice upgrade to the Marlins lineup, his value doesn't quite translate to the fantasy game. He's basically a two-category player at best. While he's likely to provide an elite batting average yet again – and post a solid total in runs scored – he's near-nothing in the power department and doesn't provide much in the way of speed either. In his big league career, Arraez has just 14 home runs and eight stolen bases over 1569 plate appearances.
Arraez has two positions of eligibility in most formats – first base and second base – and could be an interesting addition for fantasy managers that loaded up on high-power, low-average sluggers earlier in the draft. He's not a fit on every roster though. His average draft position in NFBC Draft Champions drafts for the month of January sits at pick 217 overall – which seems fair based on his overall skillet and isn't likely to fluctuate much based on the move to Miami.
Arraez is expected to function as the Marlins regular second baseman to begin the 2023 season. Marlins general manager Kim Ng said on Friday that Jazz Chisholm will move to center field to make room for Arraez at second base.
For the Twins, they get an immediate upgrade to their starting rotation in Lopez. The 26-year-old hurler has battled some injury issues in his career, but has registered a stellar 3.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 348/97 K/BB ratio in 340 innings across 63 starts over the last three seasons. He's under team control for two seasons – at just $5.45 million in 2023 and in his final season of arbitration the following year.
Lopez will join a rotation that features Joe Ryan, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda – giving the Twins one of the top rotations in the American League Central and perhaps one of the best in the entire league. His addition is likely to push Bailey Ober into a bullpen role – at least to begin the season – as the Twins have already stated that Maeda will remain a part of the rotation.
He isn't a huge strikeout guy – as Lopez registered just an 8.7 K/9 during the 2022 campaign which is well below league average these days. He should be good for solid ratios once again though and represents a fine option as a mid-rotation starter in fantasy drafts. His current average draft position sits just outside the top-150 players overall – which feels about right given his track record. The move from Miami to Minnesota looks neutral from a ballpark perspective.
The Twins aren't just getting Lopez in the deal though, they're also getting a pair of interesting prospects. The most interesting of the duo is definitely Jose Salas. Salas was one of the top-ranked prospects in Miami's system after batting .267/.356/.421 in 61 games in Low-A and .230/.319/.340 in 48 games in High-A as a 19-year-old last season. He also swiped 33 bases and clubbed nine home runs in just 109 games. He's probably going to wind up at second or third and he's never going to hit for big-time power, but he's a nice prospect with a solid chance of turning into a regular. He'll likely open 2023 back in High-A, with a midseason promotion to Double-A possible.
The other prospect coming their way in the deal is Byron Chuorio. He represents an interesting lottery ticket for the Twins in a much larger transaction after batting .344/.429/.410 last year as a 17-year-old for the Marlins' Dominican Summer League affiliate.
Colas' Time to Shine?
White Sox' skipper Pedro Grifol made an interesting announcement in an interview with 670 The Score in Chicago that Oscar Colas will be given every opportunity to win the team's starting job in right field during spring training
The 24-year–old Cuban slugger made quite the impression in his first minor league season – slashing .314/.371/.524 with 23 homers, 79 RBI and three stolen bases (in seven attempts) in 117 games across three minor league levels – finishing the year with seven games at Triple-A Charlotte.
Speed has never been a part of his game – and he's unlikely to ever swipe more than a handful of bases at the big league level. The power looks legit though, and should play especially well in the cozy confines of Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
In terms of competition for the role, it looks like Gavin Sheets is the only player that's really standing in his way. Assuming full health for the rest of the outfield – which is far from a given with this crew – the plan is for Andrew Benintendi to be the primary left fielder, Luis Robert Jr. to patrol center field and Eloy Jimenez to function as the club's regular designated hitter. That leaves Sheets on his own in right field. Colas – like Sheets – is a left-handed hitter, so there's no clear platoon option available here.
Even if he doesn't win the job outright though, Colas should be first in line to get the opportunity when Benintendi, Robert Jr. or Jimenez hit the injured list. It seems like a pretty clear path to regular big league at-bats for a player that currently sits outside the top-350 players overall in average draft position in NFBC Draft Champions drafts for the month of January.
MLB Quick Hits: Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that first baseman Triston Casas has expressed interest in signing a long-term contract extension with the Red Sox… Mike Clevinger received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his troublesome right knee early in the off-season and now his knee is “not a factor” and hasn't hindered his off-season routine… Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Marlins are closing in on a deal with free agent first baseman Yuli Gurriel… Ozzie Albies (finger) said Saturday that he's completely recovered and hasn't had any restrictions during his offseason training… Astros' manager Dusty Baker admitted Saturday that he isn't sure if Michael Brantley (shoulder) has started hitting – or if he'll be ready for Opening Day or not… Alex Bregman (finger) has resumed swinging a bat after fracturing his left index finger during Game 6 of the World Series… Braves manager Brian Snitker indicated that Vaughn Grissom will only compete for the club's starting shortstop gig and will not see looks in the outfield… The Dodgers signed right-hander Tyler Cyr to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… The Royals brought in Johan Camargo on a minor league pact… Trevor Story (elbow) told reporters on Saturday that he anticipates returning during the 2023 season… Red Sox skipper Alex Cora said that as his team is currently constructed, his plan is to start Christian Arroyo at second base and Enrique Hernandez at shortstop while Story is sidelined…Mike Trout told reporters on Friday that his back has been a “non-issue” for the past four months… Chris Sale (wrist) has progressed to throwing off of a mound and should be ready to go for the start of spring training…Garrett Whitlock (hip) has started his throwing program and appears on track for spring training… Tanner Houck (back) has started his throwing program as well and is expected to be built up as a starter during the spring… The Pirates designated Miguel Andújar for assignment… The Cardinals signed Tres Barrera to a minor league contract… The Pirates officially announced their one-year, $5 million deal with Andrew McCutchen… The Cubs made their two-year, $14 million pact with Trey Mancini official as well.