Though Pablo Lopez ultimately went from the Marlins to the Twins in a trade that feels isolated from the New York Yankees in a vacuum, the franchise will always be linked to Lopez because of what could've been -- and nearly was -- at the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline.
We may never know just how close Brian Cashman and Kim Ng got to consummating a blockbuster deal last summer, but the chain of events (from Jack Curry's warning to the Jordan Montgomery trade) seems to indicate the Yankees nearly acquired the right-hander instead.
As it stood, the Yankees left last year's deadline one arm short after pulling the trigger on Monty without replacing him. They also turned the page into August with an angry Gleyber Torres, who caught a whiff of his potential exodus before he was pulled back to the Bronx.
It seems likely that the Yankees were prepared to swap Torres for Lopez, balked when the Marlins asked for Oswald Peraza's inclusion, and watched the whole thing disintegrate at the buzzer. This theory only gained more steam this winter, when Lopez was dealt to Minnesota in exchange for 2022 All-Star Luis Arraez, a very different type of 26-year-old second baseman than Torres, but a 26-year-old second baseman just the same.
That means Miami was apparently hell-bent on acquiring a Torres-like player to fill their "youthful veteran" slot. It also means that the Twins were keen on dealing an infield cornerstone this offseason if it resulted in them receiving a high-upside, extendable right-hander ... which begs the question: Could the Yankees have butted their way into this discussion once more and offered Luis Severino?
Could Yankees have traded Luis Severino for Luis Arraez?
We know the Yankees dabbled in discussions with Minnesota this offseason, too, showing a modicum of interest in adding Max Kepler to fill their left field void. Unfortunately, they found that prospect so uninteresting that they ultimately decided they preferred the void.
While Torres has been a top-tier option for a somewhat-befuddling Yankees offense this season, his long-term future still isn't assured, and with every hot Oswald Peraza stretch at Triple-A, the likelihood of a Torres extension further disintegrates.
Unlike Torres, who's entrenched at second base after an unhelpful stint at short, Arraez can play multiple positions across the infield, logging games at third base and first base in the recent past. Second base has been his 2023 home, for the most part (he's hitting .404 in 51 games there, that maniac), but that increased versatility could've also been of use to the Yankees, who are entering the final months of Josh Donaldson while watching DJ LeMahieu struggle.
On the surface, dealing Severino prematurely without replacing him would've had the same Montgomery trade-level shock value. We absolutely are living in self-acknowledged fantasy land here. But, knowing what we know now (Severino made it through two 2023 starts before a velocity drop and pitch-tipping allegations took center stage), it might've behooved the Yankees to find a new home for him entering the final year of his extension.
(Clears throat) As long as we agree we're living in the stars and attempting to place a .392 hitter with a penchant for dramatics on a Yankees team that could still use a spark, there's a world where New York deals Severino and a prospect or two for Arraez, then turns around and trades Torres to Miami for Lopez, as last year's deadline portended. Or maybe the Twins want Torres, too, the Yankees add an outfield prospect to expand that deal (the slugging Matt Wallner?), and Brian Cashman spins around a flips Peraza to Miami for Lopez?
In the real world, it's not that easy. But it's fun to fantasize about a universe where the Yankees stepped up and claimed both targets, instead of letting the Twins and Marlins remove them from a narrative they'd once been a part of.