Almost exactly a year ago, the Twins emerged from the trading deadline with a sense of gloomy resignation.
It was clear – months before, frankly – that the squad wouldn’t be a playoff team in 2021 and probably not in 2022 without a major overhaul of the pitching staff. So, the team ditched beloved players, including starter Jose Berrios and special batter Nelson Cruz, and again focused on the future.
The atmosphere was noticeably more optimistic on Tuesday, as the AL Central-leading Twins brought in three pitchers – starter Tyler Mahle, reliever Michael Fulmer of the Tigers and closer Jorge Lopez of the Orioles – who can contribute immediately on the field without resigning anyone on the active grid.
“It feels a lot better, no other way to say it,” said Derek Falvey, president of baseball operations. “…We felt like with the group that we have in that room, the culture that we have, we wanted to try to add something to it and not take it apart.”
The Twins’ resistance to the farewell of one of their active players was one of the reasons why all of the club’s deals took place just hours before the 5:00 PM deadline on Tuesday. Falvey said the team was working on the deal with Lopez late Monday night, but made it official the next morning.
Mahle followed in the afternoon before Fulmer had the unique experience of walking from Target Field’s visiting clubhouse to the house—with gathered media filming his every step—less than two hours before his former team faced his new team.
“Looks like we’re taking the right steps to build on, and that’s always great. As a player, you want to feel like the front office is putting the best product on the pitch to help you win a championship.”
Before Lopez, the Twins said goodbye to four minor league-pitchers, three of whom were international free agent signings: Yennier Cano, who appeared in 10 Twins-games this season; 2021 third round draft pick Cade Povich; and rookie league weapons Juan Nuñez and Juan Rojas.
Lopez warmed up on Tuesday-evening in the eighth inning of the Twins’ 5-3 loss against Detroit.
For Mahle, minor league infielders Christian Encarnacion-Strand (a 2021 fifth-round pick) and Spencer Steer (a 2019 third-round pick) as well as minor league pitcher Steve Hajjar (a second-round pick from 2021). For Fulmer, minor league pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft.
The Twins also created a Class AAA swap. Catcher Sandy Leon will report to the Saints while pitcher Ian Hamilton will now join the Guardians system.
In 29-year old Lopez, the Twins win a 2022 AL All-Star with a 1.68 ERA and 19 saves amid his first full-time closer role in his seven-year career. In the 27-year old Mahle, a 19-game starter this season with a 5-7 record and a 4.40 ERA. In the 29-year-old Fulmer, a bullpen arm with a 3.20 ERA that keeps opponents at a .203 batting average.
And they all come in with a sense of familiarity. Fulmer is an Oklahoman and was a first round pick in 2011, as was Twins starter Dylan Bundy. Mahle and Sonny Gray were in the Reds’ rotation of 2019-21 together. Lopez joins Carlos Correa, Jose Miranda and Jovani Moran, the residents of Puerto Rico.
“Looks like we’re taking the right steps to gain more mass, and that’s always great. As a player, you want to feel like the front office is putting the best product on the pitch to help you win a championship,” he said. correa. . “And so far at this deadline, we feel like they’re doing that. They’re giving us a chance, a better chance, to go out and compete with the best of them.”
Correa said he had many discussions with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli over the past week with his ideas about what the front office should do by the deadline. Correa’s priority was to protect “untouchable” Miranda, who just won the AL Rookie of the Month award after hitting .353 in July.
However, one topic Correa hasn’t discussed with the Twins yet is his long-term future in Minnesota. Correa has options for the next two seasons, and there has been speculation that the Twins would want to trade him on the deadline and not risk losing him for free in the off-season. Falvey said that was never a consideration. Correa has just shared how his wife and young son are both happy here, which is a big factor in his final decision.
But that’s a decision that both sides will make for now and will come back to once the Twins have hopefully won the World Series.
A goal that doesn’t seem that far off after Tuesday’s reinforcements.
“It gives you energy. You show up and you feel like we have a few more guns here than the day before,” Baldelli said. “… It should be fun in the coming months. I know we’re looking forward to it, and [Tuesday did] miracles.”