HomeMLB RumorsPadres To Acquire Luis Arraez

Padres To Acquire Luis Arraez

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The Padres and Marlins have lined up on a rare May blockbuster. San Diego is reportedly acquiring two-time batting champ Luis Arraez from Miami for four players: prospects Dillon Head, Jakob Marsee and Nathan Martorella, as well as reliever Woo-Suk Go.

Arraez’s tenure in Miami ends after a season and five weeks. The Fish swapped Pablo López to the Twins to acquire him over the 2022-23 offseason. Arraez played up to expectations in the first season. He flirted with .400 for a few months, and while he didn’t maintain that otherworldly pace, he cruised to a second straight batting title and helped Miami to the playoffs. Arraez finished with a .354/.393/.469 line through 617 plate appearances.

As the batting titles would suggest, Arraez has developed into perhaps the game’s best pure contact hitter. He has walked more often than he’s struck out over the course of his career. The Venezuela native has punched out in only 7.5% of his plate appearances in the big leagues. That’s down to a meager 6.4% clip going back to the start of 2022. That leads qualified hitters by more than three percentage points. Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan is the only other player to strike out less than 10% of the time in that span.

Arraez has tallied 148 plate appearances over 33 games this season. His production is down slightly, as he’s hitting .299/.347/.372 without a home run. That’s not much of a concern for San Diego. Arraez is still making contact at an elite rate. He has never been a huge power threat, topping out at 10 longballs a year ago. It’s unlikely that San Diego feels differently about Arraez than they did during Spring Training, when they reportedly made a push for both him and starter Jesús Luzardo.

Going back to the start of 2022, Arraez is a .331/.380/.437 hitter in nearly 1400 plate appearances. He has hit at the top of the lineup in Miami and should do the same with the Padres. San Diego has been using Jurickson Profar in the leadoff spot of late. While Profar’s out to a fantastic start to the season, he can slide down a few spots in a suddenly deeper lineup.

As great a hitter as Arraez is, his game isn’t without flaws. He’s at best a fringe defender at second base. Defensive Runs Saved has generally graded him around league average with the glove, though it has soured on his work in 281 innings this season. Statcast has long panned him as a defender, grading him negatively in all but one year of his career. Statcast estimates he’s been 24 runs below average in nearly 2700 career innings at the keystone.

The Twins played Arraez more frequently at first base back in 2022. He rated better there defensively, although he doesn’t have the traditional power profile expected at the position. That doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for the Padres. Incumbent first baseman Jake Cronenworth is also a hit-over-power player who began his career in the middle infield.

Arraez could see occasional reps at first and second base, but he’s likely to get the bulk of his at-bats as a designated hitter. The Friars have Cronenworth, Xander BogaertsHa-Seong Kim and Manny Machado as their projected starting infield. Machado was limited to DH for a couple weeks as he recovered from last fall’s elbow surgery. He made his return to third base last Friday, and while he has continued shuffling between the hot corner and DH since then, he’ll eventually work back to everyday third base reps.

Machado’s return to third base would have left the Friars without a clear everyday option at designated hitter. Rookie Graham Pauley has gotten some reps there, but he has hit .125/.125/.313 to start his MLB career. Arraez should solidify that spot while still having enough defensive flexibility to allow manager Mike Shildt to rotate other infielders through the position when they need a break on defense.

Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller has never shied away from pursuing star talent, so it’s not particularly surprising that they’d keep an eye on Arraez. The timing of the trade, though, is a stunner. It’s incredibly rare to see players of that caliber moved this early into a season. Perhaps the best recent comparison is the May 21, 2021 swap that sent Willy Adames and Trevor Richards from the Rays to the Brewers for Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen.

Peter Bendix was serving as Tampa Bay’s general manager (#2 in the front office hierarchy) at the time of the Adames deal. He’s now in charge of baseball operations in Miami. Bendix is evidently not averse to making a major splash at an atypical time if the opportunity presents itself.

The Marlins followed up a quiet offseason with an absolutely terrible April. They enter this weekend’s series in Oakland with a 9-24 record. Whatever slim chance they had of repeating last year’s surprising playoff berth has all but evaporated. Miami was going to be a deadline seller, so there’s sense in moving early if another team put the right offer on the table.

Miami felt that was the case with a four-player return centered around San Diego’s 2023 first-rounder. The Padres selected Head 25th overall out of an Illinois high school. A left-handed hitting center fielder, he split his first professional season between rookie ball and Low-A. Head ranked eighth among San Diego prospects at Baseball America and fifth on Keith Law’s organizational write-up at The Athletic.

Both outlets credit Head with excellent speed and the chance to be a plus defensive center fielder at his peak. BA writes that he’s likely to be a contact-oriented offensive player without a ton of power, but Law wrote that professional scouts were impressed by the bat speed he showed after being drafted. Head has spent his age-19 season at Low-A Lake Elsinore. He’s out to a relatively slow start, hitting .237/.317/.366 with a 24% strikeout rate.

While Head is a long-term development play, Marsee has an outside shot at getting to the big leagues in 2024. A sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan two years ago, he dramatically improved his stock with a .274/.413/.428 showing between High-A and Double-A last season. Marsee followed up with a massive performance in the Arizona Fall League. There was even some speculation he could compete for the Opening Day center field spot, but it quickly became clear that Jackson Merrill was above him in that discussion.

Marsee, 23, ranked between 10th and 12th on the respective organizational prospect lists at BA and The Athletic. He’s credited with advanced plate discipline and instincts but without a ton of power potential. Marsee has played almost exclusively center field in the minors and likely projects as a fourth outfielder. He has spent this season at Double-A San Antonio, where has slumped to a .187/.337/.333 slash through his first 22 games.

Martorella, who is also 23, was a fifth-round pick out of Cal in that 2022 draft. The left-handed hitter has a career .269/.373/.447 batting line in nearly 800 professional plate appearances. He’s out to an excellent .294/.392/.435 start with a pair of homers and six doubles through 102 trips to the plate in San Antonio. Martorella is limited to first base or designated hitter, so he’ll need to hit a lot to be a regular, but he has shown a well-rounded offensive profile in pro ball.

Rounding out the return is Go, whom the Padres just signed out of Korea last winter. San Diego inked the 25-year-old righty to a two-year, $4.5MM deal. He’s playing this season on a $1.75MM salary. He’ll make $2.25MM next year and is guaranteed a $500K buyout on a $3MM mutual option for 2026. As is the case with most players signed out of a foreign professional league, his contract stipulates that he return to free agency at the end of the deal even though he’ll be well shy of six years of MLB service.

Go has yet to pitch in the major leagues. The Padres optioned him to Double-A after he struggled in Spring Training. He has tossed 12 2/3 innings there, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 14 hits. Go has fanned 15 hitters while issuing four walks. He was a closer for the KBO’s LG Twins before making the jump to MLB. He turned in a 3.18 ERA over parts of seven KBO seasons. Go missed plenty of bats in Korea but struggled to consistently throw strikes. Scouting reports before his signing generally suggested he projected as a middle reliever at the MLB level.

It’s the first of what is likely to be a handful of trades for the Marlins over the next few months. Miami seems set to kick off at least a retool, if not a full-scale rebuild. Luzardo, Trevor RogersTanner Scott and Jazz Chisholm Jr. are among a number of players whom the Fish could put on the market. It’s unlikely the Arraez trade will open the floodgates three months before the deadline, but it’s clear Miami is already willing to engage in conversations.

Making trades well in advance of the deadline would also allow the Marlins to offload a greater portion of players’ contracts. Budgetary constraints are always present for a franchise that annually runs payrolls in the bottom third of the league. Miami essentially sat out free agency until taking a $5MM flier on Tim Anderson (which hasn’t worked out) at the beginning of Spring Training.

Arraez was one of the higher-paid players on the roster. He’s making $10.6MM this season after losing an arbitration case in February — the second straight year he and the team went to a hearing. Around $8.5MM is yet to be paid. Assuming there are no cash considerations involved, they’ll offload that but assume around $1.4MM of Go’s salary. That amounts to just over $7MM in savings. The team’s estimated player payroll now sits around $92MM, as calculated by RosterResource.

The Padres absorb that money, which is no small matter for a team that spent most of the offseason cutting spending. RosterResource estimates their actual player payroll around $174MM. Their competitive balance tax number is far higher, reflecting their slate of backloaded contracts. RosterResource calculates their CBT in the $232MM range. They’re around $4.5MM below this year’s $237MM base threshold, a marker they were reluctant to cross last winter.

A team’s CBT calculation isn’t determined until the end of the season. This surely isn’t the last of the Padres’ trade activity. Their deadline direction could go in a number of ways depending on how the team performs over the next few months. It’s not even out of the question the Padres fall out of the race and put Arraez back on the trade block in July, though that’s surely not what the front office currently intends.

Even if Arraez finishes the 2024 season in San Diego, he could be a trade candidate next offseason. He’ll go through arbitration once more before hitting free agency during the 2025-26 offseason. The two-time All-Star is likely to command a salary in the $14-16MM range for his final year of club control. The Padres could ostensibly plug him in at second base and move Bogaerts back to shortstop if Kim departs as a free agent, but that’s not something with which the team will concern itself in the short term.

For now, they’ll plug Arraez at the top of the lineup as they push for a playoff spot. They’ll get a few more months of production than they would’ve had they waited to make a traditional deadline move, albeit at the cost of a trio of mid-level prospects and around three-quarters of Arraez’s 2024 salary. There may not be any more huge moves in the next couple weeks, but it’s a precursor to what should be busy summers in both South Florida and Southern California.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported the Padres were nearing agreement on an Arraez deal for three prospects and a reliever. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic confirmed there was an Arraez trade in place. Craig Mish of SportsGrid was first to report the Marlins’ return.

Images courtesy of USA Today Sports.


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