Trade Central: Orioles Trade Closer Jorge Lopez, Get Cade Povich In Return
In need of bullpen help as it tries to hold onto a shaky one-game lead in the American League Central Division, the Twins sent four prospects to Baltimore to land Orioles closer Jorge Lopez.
It's a trade that brings much-needed help for a very shallow Twins bullpen. It also will likely not go over well in the short-term in Baltimore. The Orioles are one game above .500. But this move, along with the Trey Mancini deal the day before, is an indication that Baltimore is not going to sway from its focus on improving the long-term potential of the club, even if that means dealing away productive members of the 2022 club. In trading Lopez, the Orioles are selling high on a player who came into the year with dramatically less trade value than he has today. But it's also taking away a key part of a much-improved Orioles bullpen that has been vital to the team's return to respectability.
Jorge Lopez, RHP
A second-round draft pick in 2011, Lopez had a long journey from a highly rated prospect in the Brewers system to shut-down closer for the upstart Orioles this season. After posting a career 6.04 ERA over his first 350 innings of work primarily as a starter, Lopez converted to a reliever full-time in 2022. He experienced a renaissance in the Orioles bullpen, making 44 appearances over the first few months of the season, closing 19 games. Lopez owns a 1.68 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP and opponents are hitting .171 against him while striking out 27.6% of the time. His 2.99 FIP seems to indicate there's some staying power to Lopez's impressive breakout season. Lopez mixes four pitches, led by an upper-90s fastball, a mid-80s curveball, a low-90s changeup and a high-80s slider. It's a powerful mix that allows him to keep opposing hitters off balance. The Twins continue to revamp their bullpen in search of reliable options at the back end, and Lopez immediately becomes someone the team can depend on, giving Jhoan Duran some much needed company.
Cade Povich, LHP
The Twins third-round pick in 2021 out of Nebraska, Povich has been one of the club’s breakout prospects in 2022. Pitching at High-A Cedar Rapids, Povich has shown the ability to mix four pitches, demonstrating feel for attacking hitters to go with solid stuff. The best is likely yet to come for Povich as he struggles to maintain his velocity. He’ll flash a 94-96 mph fastball early in games, but generally settles in at 91-93 mph. Povich has a chance to have four average or better pitches. His 82-85 mph changeup can baffle Class A hitters, his mid-70s curveball is effective both because of its depth but also because hitters struggle to adjust to the velocity change. He also throws a low-80s slider that can get firmer and sharper, but will flash above-average at its best. Povich should continue to get stronger, but he already has the building blocks to be a mid-rotation starter if it all develops.
Yennier Cano, RHP
The Twins signed Cano, a Cuban, in 2019. With their bullpen issues in 2022, he got his first shot of big league time, and so far, it has not gone well. Cano was knocked out of the game mid-inning in two of his first three MLB outings and he’s allowed 28 baseunners in just 13.2 innings in the majors. But Cano has had success in the minors thanks to a slinging, low-three-quarters release point, mid-90s fastball velocity and an above-average changeup. Cano wants to work down in the zone. If he’s on, he’s working in the bottom third of the strike zone and then expanding a little bit down and off the plate as well. That changeup is vital for him, as lefthanded hitters get a very good look at his pitches thanks to the same release point that is troublesome for righthanded hitters. Cano was only added to the 40-man roster this year, so he has multiple options remaining. That makes him a potentially useful up-and-down reliever who could have a larger role if he can sharpen his slider.
Juan Nunez, RHP
Nunez is one of many players whose careers have been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. He signed in 2019, but because of the lost 2020 season, he didn’t make his pro debut until 2021, and he is making his U.S. debut in 2022 in the Florida Complex League. Nunez throws a mid-90s fastball with above-average but not exceptional movement. His mid-80s slider is a potentially future plus pitch thanks to its excellent power. He has a well below-average changeup that needs plenty of work. Nunez is a strike-thrower with above-average control, which gives him a path to a potential MLB role years from now if he continues to develop.
Juan Rojas, LHP
Rojas doesn’t light up a radar gun, but his 88-91 mph fastball is quite lively, and its movement gives it a shot to develop into an average or even above-average pitch as Rojas gets older and stronger. Rojas demonstrates feel for spin with a promising 82-84 mph slider with depth as well as a bigger, slower 76-78 mph curveball. His changeup, like that of many young pitchers, is less developed. Rojas has starter traits. His control is very advanced for his age giving him the ability to stay ahead of hitters thanks to his ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes.