The Orioles Fleeced the Twins in the Jorge López Trade

While the Twins are chasing the AL Central crown, they have to be kicking themselves over the Jorge López trade at the 2022 deadline.

Jorge Lopez of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the New York Yankees.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 25: Jorge Lopez #48 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the New York Yankees on April 25, 2023 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Twins find themselves at an interesting juncture in the season. They currently sit in third place in their division, clinging to the final Wild Card spot in the American League.

As a fan, it is easy to look at your team in this position and ask: How could we be in a better spot? For this team in particular, I am sure many Twins fans are looking back at the 2022 Jorge López trade and wishing things had gone differently.

Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but after two teams complete a trade in baseball, there are typically two separate analyses that occur. One occurs initially, to determine which team got the most value out of the deal in the moment. The second occurs much later, once we have a better idea of what all the pieces look like long term.

We have certainly approached the time for a second look at the 2022 deadline deal that sent López to Minnesota. The former Twin has been in the headlines this season for rather unfortunate reasons. What’s more, over the course of the last two seasons, we have gotten a much better picture of what the Twins gave up.

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The Trade That Brought López to Minnesota

The initial trade that sent Jorge López from the Baltimore Orioles to the Twins occurred on August 2, 2022. The package Minnesota sent to Baltimore included right-handed pitchers Yennier Cano and Juan Nuñez as well as left-handed pitchers Cade Povich and Juan Rojas.

Jorge Lopez of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
CINCINNATI, OH – JULY 29: Jorge Lopez #48 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 29, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Baltimore defeated Cincinnati 6-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

At the time of the trade, this looked like a really good deal for the Twins. They acquired an All-Star closer in his first year of arbitration eligibility. In exchange, they gave up their 22nd-ranked prospect (per MLB Pipeline) and a few throwaways/lottery tickets. Many baseball writers gave the Twins great grades for the trade.

Cade Povich, at the time of the deal, was the 22nd-ranked prospect in the Twins system. He had yet to throw past High-A and was struggling to find his footing. The 2021 third-round pick was very expendable in August 2022.

Yennier Cano was viewed by many as a failed project. Cano posted good numbers in Triple-A, but the majors were another story. In 13.2 innings for Minnesota in 2022, he posted a 9.22 ERA. He also walked over seven batters per nine innings.

The last two pieces of the deal were Juan Nuñez and Juan Rojas. The two prospects were in their age-21 and 18 seasons, respectively. The two of them were throw-in, lottery ticket types. They could turn into something, or they could both flame out. Players like Nuñez and Rojas are easy to include in deals like this.

Where Are They Now?

This is the frustrating part for Twins fans, as far as this deal goes: looking to see where the players they gave up have landed. Most fans in Minnesota are certainly aware that two years later, it’s clear the Twins got the short end of the stick in the Jorge López trade.

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Jorge López

Let us start with López, who was the big name at the time. The former All-Star would end up throwing just 58 innings for the Twins. He would do so to the tune of a 4.81 ERA, accumulating just seven saves in 60 appearances.

Those numbers are a far cry from the 1.68 ERA he had in 2022 before the deal. López was simply not a good pitcher in Minnesota. He has, however, managed to find at least a little success since departing.

Before he was DFA’d by the Mets this season, he had posted a bearable 3.76 ERA in 26 innings. His ERA+ of 103 means he was slightly better at preventing runs than the league-average pitcher, which is certainly an improvement.

Unfortunately for the Twins, it is tough to know why he did not work out in Minnesota.

Yennier Cano

While there is another piece of this trade who will likely be more valuable than Cano in the long term, I wanted to start with Cano anyway. He was the first real and glaring indication that the Twins had made a mistake.

In the 2023 season (the year after the trade), Cano was one of the most used and valuable bullpen arms in all of baseball. He finished the season 10th in appearances (72), 15th in innings (72.2), and 11th in fWAR (1.7) among relievers.

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While López was struggling to find his footing in Minnesota, Cano was flourishing in Baltimore.

Cano earned an All-Star team selection in 2023 and once again looks like an elite reliever in 2024. So far this season, he has a 2.30 ERA in 31.1 innings for the Orioles.

In 2023, Cano proved that he was just a flat-out better pitcher than López. Regardless of what happened with all of the other pieces in the deal, Cano proved that the Twins fumbled this trade. At bare minimum, the Twins swapped relievers and ended up with the worse of the two.

Cade Povich

Right now, it is likely that Povich will end up being the most valuable player exchanged in this trade. As previously stated, Povich was the Twins No. 22 prospect at the time of the deal. He entered this season as Just Baseball’s 10th-ranked Orioles prospect in a loaded system.

The 24-year-old got off to a scorching start in Triple-A this season. Even after slowing down a bit, he was able to post a 3.18 ERA in 56.2 innings, while striking out almost 12 per nine.

Povich has since been promoted, making his MLB debut for the Orioles on June 6. He has made two starts, including six shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves in his second outing. He struck out six Braves, walking none.

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The southpaw looks like a real major league starter, and the Twins have to be kicking themselves that they gave him up.

Juan Nuñez and Juan Rojas

Nuñez and Rojas are still very young and hard to evaluate at this point in their careers.

Rojas is just 20 years old and has only thrown eight innings in Low-A this season. There is still a lot of time for him to develop, but he is certainly not someone who is keeping the Twins front office up at night.

Nuñez is also young, just 23 years old. However, his 29.1 innings in High-A this season help to paint a better picture of the pitcher he could become.

In those innings, the right-hander has a 2.45 ERA, walking just over three hitters per nine and striking out just under 12. He has managed to go from a throw-in to a legitimate prospect, working his way up to being the 26th-ranked prospect in this Orioles system (per MLB Pipeline).

Nuñez isn’t someone that Twins fans are upset about losing yet, but in a couple of years he could be.

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Takeaways From the Jorge López Trade

Before getting too frustrated while reflecting on this trade, Twins fans should note that there is no guarantee Povich and Cano would have turned into the players that they are today with Minnesota.

Baltimore has built a reputation for developing pitching in recent years, especially relief pitchers. Cano could just be someone the Orioles saw a fix for when the Twins didn’t. There is really no way of knowing for sure.

On the other hand, look at where the Twins are today. They currently rank 25th in starter ERA and 17th in starter fWAR. It really seems like Povich is an arm they could use right now – especially in a rotation that lacks a single lefty.

Additionally, the Twins rank 15th in reliever ERA and 11th in reliever fWAR. It is hard to imagine that Cano would not make this bullpen better. A bullpen riddled with inconsistency could certainly use a player like Cano, who is putting together another solid season.

There are going to be people who read this and think it is unfair to judge a front office about a trade two years after the fact. I disagree. Like I said, there are two points at which a trade should be judged, and it is equally fair to make judgments at both points.

While yes, at the time of the deal, it seemed like a no-brainer for the Twins, that doesn’t mean a front office shouldn’t be evaluated for how a trade ultimately panned out.

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If you look at this trade alongside the Tyler Mahle deal from the same year (a story for another time), this Twins front office surely deserves a certain level of scrutiny. Both trades took talent out of the farm system for little to no gain for the MLB club. That’s a problem even if the trades made sense at the time.

Ultimately, the Jorge López trade was a disaster for the Twins. They got very little value out of López and now appear to have lost a significant amount as a result of the trade. While there is nothing the Twins can do other than look forward, it certainly doesn’t mean it is not frustrating.

Stats and rankings updated prior to first pitch on June 18.