The Twins grabbed their second notable arm of the day, acquiring the right-hander Tyler Mahle in a trade with the Reds, the teams announced. Cincinnati receives prospects on the field spencer steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand as well as left-handed throwing perspective Steven Hajar in the case. Minnesota have been interested in Mahle since the offseason, when they also picked another Reds starter, Sonny Grayin an exchange that sent the first round of 2021 chase petty to the Reds.
Minnesota has focused on upgrading its pitching staff, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Having already landed closer to the Orioles Jorge Lopez in an exchange with Baltimore earlier this morning, it appears their focus has shifted to Mahle, who would reunite with Gray and give the Twins a starter they can control for the rest of the current season and into the 2023 campaign.
Mahle, 28 next month, has had a terrible start to the 2022 season and has been pitching pretty well over the past two months. He had a brief stint on the injured list with a shoulder strain in mid-July, but Mahle has missed very little time and has made two effective starts since his return. Since May 29, he has thrown a 2.83 ERA with a 27.9 percent strikeout rate and 7 percent walk rate in 57 1/3 innings.
Since a breakout during the 2020 season, Mahle has thrown a 3.93 ERA with a 27.4 percent strikeout rate and 8.9 percent walk rate in 332 major league innings. He averaged 94mph with his heater along the way and relied heavily on a splitter and slider which have both been rated as above average pitches at times – most recently favoring the splitter (especially as a way to neutralize lefties).
Beyond Mahle’s solid ERA, it’s easy to be intrigued by how he might fare upon finally escaping the confines of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. He’s worked a lousy 4.83 and averaged 1.69 homers per nine innings the past three seasons while pitching at home, but boasts an outstanding 2.93 ERA and just one mark. of 0.52 HR / 9 on the road. He also has above-average rotation on his heater and rates in the 76th percentile or better, per Statcast, in each of the following metrics: expected ERA, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, and expected wOBA.
Mahle will give the Twins the help they desperately need in the rotation, which started the season on a surprisingly strong note but has been failing of late. Opening Day Rotation Members Bailey Ober and chris paddack are both on the injured list – Paddack lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery – and Cy Young runner-up in 2020 Kenta Maeda is recovering from his own TJ procedure, performed at the end of last season.
The Twins relied heavily on Mahle’s former Reds teammate Gray as a rookie Joe Ryan and veterans Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy so far in 2022. Both Gray and Ryan have been strong – despite a disastrous five homer start for Ryan in his last appearance – and Bundy has been usable, if unspectacular, outside of his own disastrous starts at the end of April. and early May. Archer has been limited to four or five outings per start throughout the season and has started to wilt in recent weeks, however, and the Twins’ overall rotation mix was simply underwhelmed in July. The Twins’ starters produced an abysmal 6.49 ERA in July — third-worst among any major league team.
Mahle is earning $5.2 million this season, which makes him very affordable even taking into account his latest officiating raise for next season (or, as Dan Hayes of The Athletic suggests, in a possible long-term extension). Even absent an extension, he can be listed on the 2023 staff alongside Gray, Ryan and (health permitting) Maeda. It’s a much stronger base than what the team has carried in the current season.
Unlike Lopez’s acquisition this morning, the Twins paid quite a bit off the top of their system to get this deal done. Steer, the Twins’ 2019 third-round pick, recently moved to the bottom of Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100 rankings after a big first half.
Splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A, Steer hit a combined .269/.361/.528 batting line with 20 homers, 23 doubles, three triples, a 17% strikeout rate and a solid market of 10.8%. assess. He splits his time between second base, third base, and shortstop this season, spending most of his time in the hot corner (although Baseball America cites second as his best position). Given his breakthrough this year, it’s not unreasonable to think that Steer could be an option for the Reds over the next year.
Encarnacion-Strand, 22, was Minnesota’s fourth-round selection last year. As with Steer, he would have had a huge season in the minors, posting a combined .302/.374/.612 batting line with 25 homers, 25 doubles and four triples between Advanced Class A and Double-A. Strikeouts have been more of an issue for Encarnacion-Strand than Steer, as he’s been stoked in about a quarter of his appearances this season against a solid 8.7% walk rate. BA rated him 14th in the Twins’ system, touting his plus-plus raw power but noting he’s a fringe defender at third base at best and may need to move through the diamond.
Hajjar, 21, was the Twins’ second-round pick in last year’s draft and has had an impressive first full professional season this year. Minnesota limited its workload, as evidenced by 45 1/3 innings over 13 starts combined, but the results were solid. The former Michigan standout has recorded a 3.18 ERA with a showy 39.2% strikeout rate so far, although his 14% walk rate is something he will obviously need to refine if he must achieve his ceiling as a mid-rotation choke.
Hajjar can hit his mid-90s with his heater, which he tops off with a slider and shifter. Notably, Hajjar spent over a month on the shelf due to shoulder strain, and his results since his return have been diminished. Still, he’s a clearly talented arm the Reds can add to the mid-tier of a farming system they’re rapidly replenishing.
With the trade, the Twins are now down four of their first five picks in the 2021 draft since trading for Gray just before the season. This will have an impact on the system, which has also been damaged by a series of injuries sustained by last year’s wave of top prospects (e.g. Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic). That said, it’s also a testament to the strength of last year’s class. And, with the Twins receiving strong production from some recent farm graduates – including the aforementioned leverager Ryan John Duran and slugging corner infielder Joseph Mirandaamong other things – there will be a little less pressure to tap into the higher levels of their system in the immediate future.
Time will tell if the Twins have another trick up their sleeve. They could definitely use another reliever and/or another starter, not to mention a backup receiver or outfielder — all of which are supposed to be on Minnesota’s wish list. They have about two hours left to find a way to make another deal (or deals). The Reds, meanwhile, will surely have other players on the move as general manager Nick Krall and his staff continue to restock the farm and simultaneously cut the wage bill.
C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic first reported (by Twitter) that the Twins and Reds were in “serious” talks regarding Mahle. Jon Heyman of the New York Post tweeted that an agreement was in place. TwinsDaily’s Ted Schwerzler was first with the return (Twitter link).