May 25, 2024

MLB trade grades: Taking stock of the Padres-Marlins Luis Arraez deal

By Andy McCullough, Rustin Dodd and C. Trent Rosecrans

San Diego Padres get: Luis Arraez, 2B/1B

Miami Marlins get: Dillon Head, OF; Woo Suk-Go, RHP; Jakob Marsee, OF; Nathan Martorella, 1B/OF

Andy McCullough: On the surface, the addition of Arraez does not make much sense. He has rotated these past two seasons between second base and first base, a pair of positions occupied in San Diego by Xander Bogaerts and Jake Cronenworth. His ability to play shortstop offers little value; pretty much every infielder on the Padres roster can play shortstop. But with Manny Machado cleared to return to third base, the team has been giving at-bats at designated hitter to fellows like Graham Pauley and Eguy Rosario. Arraez, a batting champion in each of the past two seasons, offers an upgrade for that position while providing manager Mike Shildt with some options at the other infield positions when the regulars require rest.

Arraez, 27, provides almost all of his value through his bat — and specifically through his ability to get hits. He does not supply much power. He does not walk much. He is neither an elite defender nor an elite runner. What he does do is make consistent contact. He has rated in the 100th percentile for whiff rate in each of the past three seasons, according to Baseball Savant. Even before his .354 season in 2023, he was a career .314 hitter. His approach adds diversity to any lineup. But if his batted-bat luck takes a turn for the worse, his value shrinks.

The trade makes far more sense for Miami. The club is going nowhere. General manager Peter Bendix is attempting to rebuild on the fly. In exchange for basically two seasons of Arraez, the Marlins netted three of San Diego’s top 13 prospects, per The Athletic’s Keith Law, including Head, the team’s most recent first-round pick. Head could blossom into a Gold Glove centerfielder, but he is only 19 and currently struggling a bit to hit with Class-A Lake Elsinore. Marsee, a sixth-rounder in 2022 out of Central Michigan, can also handle defense in center field while facing questions about his bat. He entered Friday batting .185 in the Texas League. Martorella is a first baseman with good contact skills but not a lot of power. Despite signing a two-year, $4.5 million deal with San Diego this winter, Go has yet to debut in the majors. He was optioned to Double-A San Antonio to begin his career in America.

Woo-Suk Go allowed seven earned runs over five innings for the Padres in spring training. (Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)

These are the sort of moves Bendix needs to make to rejuvenate his franchise. If Head hits his ceiling, if Martorella hits for power, and if Marsee just starts hitting, the deal could look like a coup for Bendix and the Marlins. All of those outcomes are far from guaranteed. It is not guaranteed that Arraez will bat .315 in 2024 — but he probably will, splashing singles and doubles at a clip that has made him a player worth about somewhere between two to four WAR each of the past three seasons.

Padres grade: B+

Marlins grade: B-

Rustin Dodd: Give A.J. Preller points for creativity. Just when you think he couldn’t possibly make another headline-making trade, he goes and does something like this. And totally redeems himself?

Ehh. We’ll see.

The Padres now control Arraez for the rest of this season and 2025. He’ll likely see a lot of playing time at designated hitter — though the Padres have some other versatile pieces in their infield and manager Mike Shildt has options. You almost never see teams making this kind of move in May, and on some level, the aggression is commendable. Of course, you can say that about most of Preller’s moves.

The real question: How much does this improve the Padres’ playoff chances? And is the return worth it?

Head, a 19-year-old outfielder with elite speed, projects to be the headliner for the Marlins. He was selected in the first round last year and given a $2.8 million signing bonus to skip college. His combination of speed and defense gives him a high floor with the possibility of a high ceiling. The Marlins also acquired outfielder Marsee and first baseman/outfielder Martorella, two players ranked among the Padres’ top 15 prospects.

The Marlins are making the best of a bad situation and rebuilding their system. The results could vary wildly, but the decision makes sense.

Padres grade: B

Marlins grade: B+

C. Trent Rosecrans: The Twins win the trade! That’s how this is done, right?

Oh, wait…

But seriously, folks, the Marlins got 180 games of Arraez for Pablo López (and Byron Chourio and Jose Salas). That doesn’t seem to be a lot.

As for this trade, the Padres acquired a non-shortstop, which for them, is at least something new.

It’s a strange fit for the Padres, who have a glut of infielders, but Arraez is a left-handed hitter who can put the bat on the ball and that is always important. He’s limited defensively to the right side of the infield and DH and doesn’t hit for much power, but that’s OK because the Padres have that in spades throughout the lineup.

For the Marlins, I guess it’s at least a commitment to a direction. First Kim Ng, then Arraez and it could be a race to the the fire exit for reigning National League Manager of the Year Skip Schumacher and Billy the Marlin.

The jokes are easy, but Head was a first-rounder last year and while he’s not close to Miami yet, he has great speed and is a good defender based on reports. Marsee is much closer with a lower ceiling, but he was MVP of the Arizona Fall League last year and even if he’s a fourth outfielder, fourth outfielders are valuable, especially in that ballpark. Martorella seems to be the opposite of Marsee — he’s limited defensively, but he can hit. And as noted above, that’s a valuable skill. Finally, Go is a reliever and relievers are important.

That’s all to say, the Marlins didn’t get fleeced. They got a mix of prospects with differing levels of risk. That’s what you want here, maybe a safer fourth outfielder and a guy who could mature into your everyday center fielder.

These are the types of deals the Marlins must make at this point. If Bendix thought this was about the best he could do and he liked some of the players coming back in return, the timing makes sense. Get the players in your system, see what they are and go forward. Arraez was the third-highest-paid player on the Marlins behind Josh Bell and Avisaíl García and easily the most productive of the three this season. The Marlins are off the hook for the remainder of his $10.6 million contract and they also don’t have to pay him what he’d make in arbitration as a Super Two next year.

It’s not as if the Marlins gave up Bryan De La Cruz — Arraez is a good player and one who should give the Padres options in their lineup, but he’s not someone who changes a franchise either way.

Padres grade: B

Marlins grade: B

Bonus Twins grade: A+



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(Top photo of Arraez: Megan Briggs / Getty Images)