It’s too soon to reach conclusions about last winter’s trade sending Luis Arraez to the Marlins for Pablo Lopez but right now perceptions and facts are one-sided against the Twins.
Arraez, 26, was hitting a gaudy .399 as of yesterday morning while playing mostly second base this spring for the dramatically improved Marlins. MLB.com points out he could become the first player since 1900 to be the batting champion in the American and National Leagues in consecutive seasons.
The gifted left-handed hitter has an early flirtation with a .400 season, something last accomplished in the majors by Ted Williams in 1941. Since that year only eight players had higher averages than Arraez through the first 61 games of a season, per MLB.com.
Arraez’s numbers on Tuesday included 29 runs batted in, 22 runs scored, an MLB-best OBP of .454 and sixth best OPS of .945. He had struck out only 11 times.
No Twins player is close to Arraez’s numbers. Minnesota had a team batting average of .233 going into last night’s game against the Rays and Twins batters had struck out an MLB-high 613 times.
The Twins’ offense has too often been MIA, frequently scoring three runs or less in games and often not coming through with timely hits. Obviously, the Twins miss Arraez’s bat in the lineup and ability to get on base.
The Marlins, though, with the addition of Arraez and other changes to the team are thriving. Through Monday’s games Miami’s record of 33-28 had the Marlins in second place in the NL East three games behind the Mets. That contrasts with a 22-30 record in 2022 when the Marlins were 13.5 games out of first place.
With a Wins Above Replacement offensive number of 2.4, Arraez ranked No. 7 among MLB players as of yesterday, according to stats from ESPN.com. Lopez’s number is 0.7 and that didn’t place him in the top 100 WAR numbers for pitchers.
The Twins traded for Lopez, 27, with the intent for him to be among their best starters and possibly the staff ace. His record of 3-3 and ERA of 4.54 is disappointing, although he’s had impressive outings including a May showdown with Angels’ superstar pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani that the Twins lost with faulty bullpen work.
Lopez is 2-1 with a 5.66 ERA in his last seven starts. His last start on June 1 against the AL Central defending champion Guardians saw him throw 5.2 innings and yield six earned runs.
The Twins, who reportedly signed Lopez to a four-year, $73.5 million contract extension in April, have six pitchers with as many or more wins than the right-hander whose MLB career record in six seasons in 31-34 with a 4.01 ERA.
A year ago yesterday the Twins’ record was 32-24, compared with 31 wins and 29 losses in 2023. During the remainder of the season Minnesota needs a dominant performance from Lopez to build a better record, secure a Central Division title for the first time since 2020 and make Twins Territory feel better about that guy down in Miami who is on a torrid tear.
In the trade with the Marlins, the Twins also received two highly-regarded prospects, 20-year-old shortstop Jose Salas and 18-year-old outfielder Byron Chourio. Salas is hitting .160 in 150 at bats with High-A Affiliate Cedar Rapids. Chourio’s average is .167 in six at bats with the Florida Complex Twins.
Greg Eslinger, the former Gophers center and one of the most honored offensive linemen in Big Ten football history, is a step closer to Hall of Fame recognition with this week’s announcement he is on the ballot for the class of 2024. When voting is announced early next year it will be stunning if the 2004-2005 All-American isn’t selected by the National Football Foundation for a place in the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
In 2005 Eslinger received the Outland Trophy (the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman) and the Rimington Trophy (the country’s best center). He was the 2005 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year (only Gopher ever honored) and was awarded with the 2006 Big Ten Medal of Honor (the conference’s oldest and most prestigious award).
For four seasons, Eslinger was a contributor for the ages to Minnesota’s offense. Playing for head coach Glen Mason, he was indispensable to an offense that set single-season records for rushing attempts (683), rushing yards (3,759), rushing yards per game (289.2), rushing touchdowns (46), total season yards (6,430), total yards per game (494.8), total season points (503), average points per game (38.7), season touchdowns (66) and first downs (326).
Eslinger, a Bismarck, North Dakota native, is the only player in school history to be named first-team all-conference by the media and coaches for three consecutive seasons. In 2014, he was named to the Athlon Sports Top 50 College Football Players of the BCS era (1998-2013). He ranked 34th behind LaDanian Tomlinson (30th), Robert Griffin III (31st), Reggie Bush (32nd) and Drew Brees (33rd).
John Anderson, the Golden Gophers head baseball coach, told Sports Headliners 35 percent of MLB pitchers have had Tommy John surgery during their baseball lives. The emphasis to throw at high velocity has put more strain on arms than should occur and resulted in needed surgery (sometimes early in careers).
Anderson has been loyal to the University of Minnesota through the years. He has been contacted by other schools about their vacancies and was once a finalist for the Georgia job. Anderson first came to the U in 1974 as a pitcher and seven years later was named head coach.
“I care about this program, and I was given an opportunity at 26, a very young age, to carry on this program, the history and tradition,” Anderson said about the oldest sport at the U. “I wasn’t going to walk out the door just for the next job because this was a special place for me because of my background here.”
Timberwolves coach Chris Finch and others with the club are planning for next season and the upcoming NBA Draft later this month. That doesn’t preclude a bit of recreational time, though. “I bought a boat last summer, so I enjoy being out there (Lake Minnetonka),” Finch told Sports Headliners recently. “I go to the Twins games. I go to the Lynx games. Spend some time downtown in the North Loop area where I live. Just kind of relaxing and enjoying the good weather. So, it’s a fun place to be right now.”