The twins held their second significant hand of the day, earning a right hand Tyler Mahle In the trade with the Reds, the teams announced. Cincinnati infield gets chances Spencer Steer And Christian Encarnacion-Strand As well as a left-handed pitching prospect Steven Hajjar In the contract. Minnesota has been interested in Mahle since late when they picked up another Reds starter. Sonny GrayIn a move that sent a 2021 first-rounder Chase the box For reds.
Minnesota is focused on improving its pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Already the Orioles landed close George Lopez In this morning’s trade with Baltimore, their focus appears to have turned to Mahle, who would reunite with Gray and give them a starter they can control for the remainder of the current season and into the 2023 campaign.
Mahle, who turns 28 next month, has shaken off a terrible start to the 2022 season and pitched well over the past two months. He had a brief stint on the injured list in mid-July with a shoulder strain, but Mahle has missed only limited time and made a pair of productive starts since returning. On May 29, he pitched to a 2.83 ERA with a 27.9% strikeout rate and a 7% walk rate in 57 1/3 innings.
Coming off a breakout 2020 season, Mahle pitched to a 3.93 ERA with a 27.4% strikeout rate and an 8.9% walk rate in 332 big league innings. He averages 94 mph with his heater and leans heavily on the splitter and slider, both of which have been graded as above-average pitches at times — recently in favor of the splitter (especially as a means of neutralizing lefties).
Beyond Mahle’s solid era, it’s easy to wonder how he’ll fare from the homer-happy confines of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. He sports an ugly 4.83 ERA and has averaged 1.69 home runs per nine innings pitched at home over the past three seasons, but has a better 2.93 ERA and 0.52 HR/9 mark on the road. He has above-average spin on his heater and rates in the 76th percentile or better per stat in each of the following metrics: expected ERA, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA.
In a rotation that started the season on a surprisingly strong note but has faltered of late, Mahle will provide some much-needed help for the Twins. Opening day rotation members Bailey Ober And Chris Paddock Both are on the injured list — Paddock lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery — and the 2020 Cy Young runner-up. Kenta Meda He is recovering from his own TJ procedure performed late last season.
The Twins are leaning heavily on Mahle’s former Reds rotationmate Gray, a rookie Joe Ryan and veterans Chris Archer And Dylan Bundy So far in 2022. Both Gray and Ryan have been strong — Ryan had a disastrous five-homer start in his last appearance — and Bundy has been serviceable, if spectacular, outside of a pair of disastrous starts in late April. And in early May. Archer has been limited to four or five outings per start throughout the season and has begun to wilt in recent weeks, however, and the Twins’ overall rotation mix has been very low in July. Twins starters had a dismal 6.49 ERA in July — third worst among all major league teams.
Mahle is making $5.2MM this season, an affordable price for him even when he raises his final salary for next season (or, per Dan Hayes of The Athletic). Recommends, in a possible long-term extension). Even without an extension, he could be penciled in on the 2023 staff with Gray, Ryan and (health permitting) Maeda. It’s a more solid foundation than the team has taken this season.
Unlike this morning’s acquisition of Lopez, the Twins paid heavily from the top of their organization to get this deal done. Steer, the Twins’ third-round pick in 2019, recently went on the back end of a big first half in Baseball America’s midseason Top-100 rankings.
Splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A, Steer turned in a .269/.361/.528 batting line with 20 home runs, 23 doubles, three triples, a 17% strikeout rate and a robust 10.8% walk. ratio. He has split his time between second base, third base and shortstop this season, spending most of his time at the hot corner (although Baseball America lists second as his best position). Given his breakout this year, it’s not unreasonable to think Stier could be an option for the Reds by next year.
Encarnacion-Strand, 22, meanwhile, was Minnesota’s fourth-round pick last year. Like Steer, he would have a big season in the minors, posting a .302/.374/.612 batting line with 25 home runs, 25 doubles and four triples between Class-A Advanced and Double-A. Strikeouts have been more of an issue for Encarnacion-Strand than Stier, as he has faced a solid 8.7% walk rate among his innings pitched this season. BA ranked him 14th in the Twins’ organization, citing his plus-plus raw power, noting that he’s a fringe defender at third base and may need to move across the diamond.
Hajjar, 21, was the Twins’ second-round pick in last year’s draft and has impressed in his first full pro season this year. Minnesota has kept his workload down, as evidenced by 45 1/3 innings in 13 starts, but the results have been strong. The former Michigan standout has posted a 3.18 ERA with a 39.2% strikeout rate so far, though his 14% walk rate clearly needs to improve if he ever realizes his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter.
Hajjar can reach the mid-to-upper 90s with his heater, which he complements with a slider and changeup. Notably, Hajjar spent more than a month on the sidelines with a shoulder strain, and his results have dipped since returning. Still, he’s a clearly talented arm who can quickly add red color to the middle tier of a rebuilding farm system.
With this trade, the Twins have now moved up from four of their top five picks in the 2021 draft since trading for Gray earlier in the season. This will hurt the system, which has suffered from a series of injuries to a wave of top prospects last year (eg. Josh Winter, Jordan Balazovic) said it’s a testament to the strength of last year’s class. Also, the Twins are getting strong production from the farm’s recent graduates — including the aforementioned Ryan Leverage reliever. John Duran and slugging corner infielder Joseph MirandaAmong other things — there will be a little less pressure to tap into the upper levels of their system in the immediate future.
Time will tell if the Twins have another move up their sleeve. They could certainly use another reliever and/or another starter, to say nothing of a backup catcher or outfielder — all of which are rumored to be on Minnesota’s wish list. They still have two hours to find a way to put together another deal (or deals). The Reds, meanwhile, will almost certainly move other players as general manager Nick Krall and his staff continue to restructure the farm while shedding payroll.
The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans first reported (via Twitter) The Twins and Reds were in “serious” talks about Mahle. Jon Heyman of the New York Post Tweeted There was an agreement. Ted Schwerzler of Twins Daily was first on the return (Twitter link)