baseball

Analysts react to Marlins’ Arraez trade and Chisholm move to center

Minnesota Twins' Luis Arraez points to the dugout after hitting a single against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept.  13, 2022, in Minneapolis.  On Friday, Jan.  20, 2023, the Twins traded reigning AL batting champion Arraez to the Miami Marlins for a three-player package featuring starting pitcher Pablo López.

Minnesota Twins’ Luis Arraez points to the dugout after hitting a single against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Minneapolis. On Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, the Twins traded reigning AL batting champion Arraez to the Miami Marlins for a three-player package featuring starting pitcher Pablo López.

AP

A six-pack of Miami Marlins notes on a Monday, off the Luis Arraez trade and the move of Jazz Chisholm Jr. to center field:

National reaction, from a Marlins perspective, was generally favorable on the acquisition of Arraez, who will play a lot of second base for the Marlins. Miami traded Pablo Lopez, No. 5 prospect Jose Salas (an infielder) and minor-league outfielder Byron Chourio.

“I really like this deal for the Marlins,” said former Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd, now an analyst for MLB Network. It’s hard to get pitching. It’s the shortest supply of commodity in the game. But this is a very unique talent in Arraez.”

MLB evaluators grade players’ tools on a scale from 2 to 8, with eight being the best.

“There are very few 8 hitters in the game and Arraez is one,” O’Dowd said. “We just don’t see that any more in our game. He doesn’t walk much. But he never strikes out at all. He really, really hits good pitching on a consistent basis.

And though pitcher Pablo Lopez has upside, if you look at his year last year, it was a good year but from June on, it wasn’t that good of a year. The Marlins did really, really well here.”

And O’Dowd points out that Arraez has been under team control for three years. Lopez, conversely, can become a free agent after two years.

MLB Network analyst and former big-league pitcher Ron Darling, TBS’ lead analyst as well, said: “This is a win for the Marlins. [Arraez] can play anywhere in the infield. In today’s game, when you have a lot of power and swing and miss, to have someone like Arraez in your lineup that gives you that quality at-bat, gets on base, .374 on base in his career. These guys are so invaluable. He’s a perfect bat for any lineup.

“I think he’s really going to produce for the Miami team. Miami is going to have to get more production from Avisil Garcia and Jorge Soler to get that offense going. But the Marlins traded from a strength. They got plenty of young pitching, Cy Young Sandy Alcantara and Johnny Cueto.”

Former All-Star closer Brad Lidge raised eyebrows when he said of Arraez on Sirius XM: “I’m not saying he’s Rod Carew, but he’s not way off.” [from] Rod Carew.”

Carew, an 18-time All-Star and first ballot Hall of Famer, was a career .328 hitter and .393 on base average.

Arraez is at .314, .374 in his career.

Yes, comparing Arraez to Carew seems wildly premature and hyperbolic. But we see what Lidge was saying; Arraez’s bat commands that much respect.

In fact, his .314 career batting average is second in baseball (minimum 900 plate appearances) since his debut in May 2019.

Last season, he hit .282 with two strikes (very good), .290 after the count was 0-2, .323 with a full count and .308 when the pitcher was ahead in the count.

And here’s some really impressive stuff:

Last season, he led baseball in batting average with two strikes (.282), led the AL in batting average with runners in scoring position (.366), and ranked second in the AL in batting average off fastballs (.351).

Last season, he was 10 out of 14 with a runner on third and less than two out.

In his career, he’s .347 with men on base (.869 OPS), .343 (.833 OPS) with runners in scoring position.

The feedback on the trade from a defensive standpoint drew less positive response.

“I think Jazz Chisholm can play center field,” O’Dowd said. He’s got great instincts for the game, tremendous athleticism. It should translate well out there. Not crazy about their infield defense at all. Limited range guys.”

That infield now includes Arraez at second base, Joey Wendle at shortstop and Jean Segura at third.

“Wendle will catch the ball; not much of an extended range guy,” O’Dowd said. Not sure about Segura at third and Arraez struggled when he played second base for the Twins. I think they helped themselves offensively; don’t think they helped themselves defensively.”

Darling’s take: “Even though they moved the fences in Miami, it’s cavernous [in that ballpark] to cover all that ground. The infield you have a lot of guys playing different positions. Wendle is a supreme defensive player but he’s more versatile; he can play different positions. I don’t see him play shortstop all season long.”

Former Nationals GM Jim Bowden, who hosts a show on Sirius XM, said: Chisholm is “a special athlete and should be able to make the transition like Eric Davis did back in the day with the Reds. Will be fun watching him in spring training.”

Manager Skip Schumaker’s reaction, with Bowden on Sirius XM: “We’re really excited. A guy who won the batting title puts the ball in play with elite contact skills.

“High-character guy. I talked to some guys in Minnesota and they rave about his work ethic and what kind of kid he is. It’s tough to lose a guy like Pablo… But we needed somebody at the top of the order and couldn’t think of a better guy than Arraez.”

He most often batted leadoff last season and was .299 in that spot. He hit .391 in 81 plate appearances hitting second, where he batted second most often. He had three hits in five at bats hitting a cleanup.

Arraez led the AL in batting average at .316, the lowest average to lead the league since Carl Yastrzemski hit .301 in 1968.

His .375 on-base percentage was seventh, because he didn’t walk a ton (50 in 144 games).

Of his 173 hits (which ranked seventh in the American League), 133 were singles, which ranked second.

There won’t be much power — just eight homers last year and 14 in the 389 at-bats — but he does have 77 doubles, including 31 last year.

But there also won’t be many strikes. His 131 strikeouts are the least of any active player with more than 1,000 plate appearances. His strikeout rate was the lowest in the major among qualifiers last season.

And keep this in mind: Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuna, and Nick Castellanos all had lower slugging percentages than Arraez’s .420 last season.

Per MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, Arraez is the fifth batting champ to switch teams in the following offseason since divisions started in 1969, joining Bill Madlock (Cubs to Giants in 1976), Carew (Twins to Angels in 1978), Willie McGee (A’s to Giants in 1990) and Jose Reyes (Mets to Marlins in 2011).

This story was originally published January 23, 2023 1:06 PM.

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.

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