Twins get All-Star closer Lopez, starter Mahle at trade deadline

Twins get All-Star closer Lopez, starter Mahle at trade deadline

As most baseball players would be around 9 am the day of a night game, Jorge Lopez was sleeping when his phone ringing woke him.

Orioles general manager Mike Elias was on the line to inform the relief pitcher that he was heading to the Twins in a deadline-day trade Tuesday.

“The first thing I said, ‘I hope this is not the call,'” Lopez said on a video call. “… It’s a tough one for Mike. He gives me the opportunity, and he trusted me to the end.”

The 29-year-old Lopez was an AL All-Star this year after assuming the full-time closer role for Baltimore for the first time in his seven-year career. He should provide immediate help to the Twins’ bullpen, as he has collected 19 saves in 23 opportunities this season with a 1.68 ERA, a 4-6 record and 54 strikeouts in 48⅓ innings pitched.

Later Tuesday the Twins added right-hander Tyler Mahle from the Reds, according to a league source with knowledge of the deal. Acquired for three minor-leaguers, Mahle started 19 games for Cincinnati, going 5-7 with a 4.40 ERA.

Finding pitching help, both among the starters and within the bullpen, has been a priority as the Twins gear up for the playoffs. They’re 54-48 with a one-game lead in the AL Central. To add Lopez, the Twins sent four minor league pitchers to Baltimore: Yennier Cano, who appeared in 10 games for the team this season; 2021 third-round draft pick Cade Povich; and righthander Juan Nuñez and lefthander Juan Rojas, who play in the rookie league.

Mahle was acquired for minor league infielders Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Spencer Steer, and left-handed pitcher Steve Hajjar.

Lopez has been traded before, from the Brewers, who drafted the Puerto Rican in the second round of the 2011 draft, to the Royals in 2018. Baltimore claimed him off waivers in August 2020. And in 2021, he started 25 games for them, compiling a 3-14 record and 6.07 ERA. This season, he is fifth in the AL in saves, third in ERA and second in opponent batting average (.174).

Baltimore has recently orchestrated a surge, pushing above .500 but still languishing in fourth place in the stacked AL East. That made this trade all the more bittersweet.

“This team, it was a little different than the last two, and I mean it a lot,” Lopez said of the Orioles. “These guys really take care of business, and that really taught me a lot. … It’s just a family. It became more than family. It’s a lot of tears because we worked so hard to get to this point.”

Last month, the Twins won a pair of games against Baltimore with walk-off hits and Lopez pitching. On July 1, Byron Buxton’s walk-off homer was the winning hit. The next day, Jorge Polanco tied the game with a home run and Jose Miranda won it with a single.

Teams have until 5 pm today to complete trades.

Come back to startribune.com later for more on this developing story.

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