2:50pm: The teams have agreed to a trade sending Mahle to the Twins, tweet Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Ted Schwerzler of TwinsDaily reports that Minnesota is sending is sending infield prospects spencer steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand to the Reds, more lefty Steven Hajjar (Twitter link).
2:41pm: The Reds and Twins are in “serious discussions” on a trade that would send righty Tyler Mahle from Cincinnati to Minnesota, reports C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic (through Twitter). Minnesota has had interest in Mahle dating back to the offseason, when they also picked up another Reds starter, Sonny Grayin a swap that feels 2021 first-rounder chase petty to the Reds.
Minnesota has been focused on upgrading its pitching staff, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Having already landed Orioles closer jorge lopez in a trade with Baltimore earlier this morning, it seems their focus has shifted to Mahle, who’d reunite with Gray and give the Twins a starter they can control for the remainder of the current season and for the 2023 campaign.
Mahle, 28 next month, has shaken off a terrible start to the 2022 season and pitched quite well over the past two months. He had a brief stint on the injured list due to a shoulder strain in mid-July, but Mahle only missed minimal time and has made a pair of effective starts since returning. Dating back to May 29, he’s pitched to a 2.83 ERA with a 27.9% strikeout rate and 7% walk rate in 57 1/3 innings.
Since a breakout during the 2020 season, Mahle has pitched to a 3.93 ERA with a 27.4% strikeout rate and 8.9% walk rate in 332 big league innings. He’s averaged 94 mph with his heater along the way and leaned heavily on a splitter and slider that have both graded out as above-average pitches at times — more recently favoring the splitter (particularly as a means of neutralizing lefties).
Beyond Mahle’s solid ERA, it’s easy to be intrigued by how he might fare when finally escaping the homer-happy confines of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. He’s worked to an ugly 4.83 ERA and yielded an average of 1.69 home runs per nine innings over the past three seasons while pitching at home but boasts an outstanding 2.93 ERA and just a 0.52 HR/9 mark on the road. He also has above-average spin on his heater and rates in the 76th percentile or better, per Statcast, in each of the following metrics: expected ERA, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA.
Mahle will give the Twins some desperately needed help in the rotation, which started the season on a surprisingly strong note but has flooded of late. Opening Day rotation members Bailey Ober and chris paddack are both on the injured list — Paddack lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery — and 2020 Cy Young runner-up Kenta Maeda is recovering from his own TJ procedure, performed late last season.
The Twins have leaned heavily on Mahle’s former Reds rotationmate Gray, rookie Joe Ryan and veterans Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy so far in 2022. Gray and Ryan have both been strong — a disastrous five-homer start for Ryan in his last appearance notwithstanding — and Bundy has been serviceable, if unspectacular, outside a pair of catastrophic starts of his own at the end of April and in early May. Archer has been limited to four or five outings per start throughout the season and begun to wilt in recent weeks, however, and the Twins’ overall rotation mix simply underwhelmed in July. Twins starters yielded an awful 6.49 ERA in July — third-worst among all big league teams.
Mahle is earning $5.2MM this season, making him plenty affordable even when factoring in his final arbitration raise for next season (or, as Dan Hayes of The Athletic suggests, in a potential long-term extension). Even absent an extension, he can be penciled into the 2023 staff alongside Gray, Ryan and (health-permitting) Maeda. That’s a much more solid foundation than the team carried into the current season.
More to come.