10:11am: The Twins and Orioles have announced the trade.
9:36am: The Twins and Orioles are in agreement on a trade sending All-Star closer Jorge Lopez from Baltimore to Minnesota, nor first reported Andy Kostka of the Baltimore Sun. The Twins are sending left-handed pitching prospects Cade Povichright-hander Yennier Cano and a pair of pitching prospects to Baltimore in return, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports. Right-hander Juan Nunez and lefty Juan Rojas are the other two names in the deal, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Lopez, 29, has enjoyed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Major League Baseball this season, going from a waiver claim at risk of losing his roster spot in Baltimore for much of last season to a first-time All-Star who’s pitched his way into the ranks of the game’s elite relievers. The former second-round pick and top prospect never took off as a starting pitcher but has been outstanding since moving to the bullpen on a full-time basis late last season. Thus far in 2022, Lopez has tossed 48 innings with a 1.68 ERA, a 27.6% strikeout rate, an 8.7% walk rate and an enormous 60% ground-ball rate that ranks fifth in baseball among MLB relievers.
It’s a short sample, to be sure, but Lopez’s move to the ‘pen last August served as a portent for the breakout to come. He began heavily favoring his sinker over his four-seamer, watched both his ground-ball rate and velocity make substantial jumps, and tossed 8 1/3 innings with just two runs, a 10-to-2 K/BB ratio and a 66.7 % grounder rate. Dating back to last year’s shift to the bullpen, Lopez has a 1.75 ERA, 27.9% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate, 61% grounder rate and a 98 mph average velocity on his sinker.
The Twins are clearly confident in his ability to sustain this newfound production, and adding to his appeal is the fact that Lopez is controlled all the way through the 2024 season. He’s also earning an eminently affordable $1.5MM this year, so he’ll barely impact the 2022 payroll and won’t break the bank in either 2023 or 2024.
Lopez gives the Twins a power-armed closer to pair with the flamethrowing rookie John Duran and breakout righty Griffin Jax at the back of what has been an otherwise awful bullpen. Much like Duran and Jax, Lopez gives manager Rocco Baldelli the flexibility of knowing he can cover more than one inning, if needed. Eleven of Lopez’s 44 appearances this season have seen him record at least four outs.
More to come.