The Marlins made their long-awaited trade of a starting pitcher for a batsman this afternoon and sent Pablo Lopez to Minnesota as part of a deal for Luis Arraez. Shortly after the deal was completed, Miami general manager Kim Ng told reporters (including Craig Misch from SportsGrid) the newly acquired infielder would take over as the primary second baseman. All Star Jazz Chisholm Jr. moves from the capstone to midfield.
It’s an interesting move for Miami, who will indirectly address their shaky midfield mix in today’s trading. Arraez has plenty of experience as a second baseman. He got to the position through the minors and has logged more MLB innings there than at any other position. In parts of four seasons, Arraez has put up just over 1,200 innings at the Keystone.
Public defense metrics on its effectiveness have been mixed. Defense Runs Saved put him under average there as a rookie in 2019 with nine runs in just 390 innings. In the three seasons since then, DRS has ranked him as a slightly above-average second baseman. Statcast wasn’t quite so optimistic. While it also feels like he’s improved since a bad rookie – an estimated -7 runs in 2019 – it has slightly under-rated him in two of the last three years.
Statcast rated Arraez’s arm strength as slightly above average for the position. However, scouts have raised questions about his lateral pace and athleticism since his time as a prospect. Minnesota pushed him mostly to work at first base last season, starting him 31 times at capstone compared to 60 times at first base (with a handful of third-place games also mixed in). Of course, Minnesota’s signature Carlo Correa Shortstop solidified and secured Jorg Polanco would play almost exclusively at second base. The Twins were more comfortable with Polanco’s gauntlet than Arraez at center, but it’s possible they would have given the latter more second base time had they not landed one of the best shortstops in the sport.
It’s a surprise that Miami ousted Chisholm from midfield. The 24-year-old (25 next month) established himself as the organization’s top player with a first-half .254/.325/.535 before suffering a season-ending stress fracture in his back. He also later had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Signed by the Bahamas as a shortstop prospect, Chisholm has only played in midfield as a pro. He will spontaneously take over the outfield throughout the coming season, with more than a month of spring training to adjust to the new position.
With no outfield experience, it’s impossible to know how Chisholm will take on the different readings and angles he’ll have to learn as an outfielder. Miami is clearly confident he’ll quickly brush up on these aspects of his game while in the meantime relying on his elite athleticism. Chisholm has long been dubbed plus-speed by scouts, and Statcast placed him in the 94th percentile in the league in that regard last season. He would have finished 19th out of 74 midfielders at sprint speed, so from that perspective he certainly shouldn’t have a problem covering the expansive outfield at Marlins Park.
Prospect reviewers also praised Chisholm for having an above-average limb. He hasn’t shown that at the MLB level, although it’s not fair to compare his shot speeds as a second baseman to those of center fielders. Chisholm obviously had quicker releases and much shorter throws on the right side of infield than he did from midfield.
It’s a gamble for the Pisces, though, given the challenge of predicting how quickly he’ll develop the kind of reads needed to be a solid defensive midfielder. However, it’s one Miami will seize after missing their chances to up the position directly from outside the organization. Furthermore, the free agent market at the position was mostly limited to depth players Brandon Nimmo, Cody Bellinger and Kevin Kiermaier. Trades offered only a few more obvious candidates, with the pirates sticking to a massive asking price Bryan Reynolds and even reports of a somewhat significant request from the royals for a glove-first option like Michael A Taylor.
Instead of letting things run backwards with players like Jesus Sanchez, Bryan De La Cruz and JJ Bleday – who are all better suited in the corner of the outfield – they will hand things over to Chisholm. Your younger fielders will be fighting for a spot in the opposite corner Avisail Garcíawhile Arraez looks set to join Joe Wendel, Jean Segura and Garret Cooper in the primary infield.