Less than three months after the Minnesota Twins acquired starter Pablo Lopez from the Miami Marlins in a January blockbuster, the team is making sure it’s not a rental: According to several reports, Lopez and the Twins have agreed to terms on a four-year, $73.5 million contract extension:
The Minnesota Twins and Pitcher Pablo López are closing in on a 4 year $73.5 million dollar contract extension per sources. Agreement expected to be finalized soon.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) April 17, 2023
The new deal buys out Lopez’s two remaining years of arbitration, as the righty — who just turned 27 in March — was set to become a free agent in 2025. It’s not hard to see why the Twins wanted to keep Lopez around: He’s posted a 1.73 ERA in his first four starts in Minnesota, with a league-leading 33 strikeouts in 26 innings.
Lopez will form the backbone of what’s become an imposing starting rotation alongside Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan and Tyler Mahle. Ryan, a homegrown product, still has years of team control left, but Gray and Mahle will be free agents after this season — making it imperative that Minnesota lock up Lopez, the best and the youngest of their three recent pitching acquisitions.
An international signing by the Seattle Mariners out of his native Venezuela way back in 2012, Lopez was traded to the Marlins in 2017 and was starting in the Majors just over a year later. He struggled early in his career, though, with a 4.76 ERA over his first 31 starts between 2018 and 2019. The pandemic-shortened 2020 season is when Lopez really took off, lowering his ERA to 3.61 and bumping his K/9 from 7.7 all the way to 9.3. His transition from contact-oriented sinker-baller to a powerful, mid-90s four-seam fastball allowed his already-elite changeup to play up even more — and turned him into one of the game’s more underrated pitchers.
But the Marlins, with plenty of starting pitching depth anchored down by an anemic offense, flipped Lopez (and two Minor Leaguers) to the Twins this winter in return for batting champion Luis Arraez. It’s safe to say both teams are happy with how that turned out: While Lopez is putting together an early Cy Young candidacy in Minnesota, Arraez leads all of baseball in batting average and OBP.