It was not too long ago when Jose Lopez was a perfectly capable starter on a major-league team. Sure, he was far from a star, but was league-average bat with passable defense at several positions along the infield. In early 2007, he signed a modest four-year extension with the Seattle Mariners worth around $6 million.
Lopez, 27, went on to produce 2.5 wins over the course of the deal, making it a decent endeavor for the Mariners. Meanwhile, his production dropped from average to replacement level as the deal expired last season. In his final season with the Mariners, Lopez hit .239/.270/.339 in 150 games. He continued to show little plate discipline and actually increased his O-Swing to a career-high 37%. Although he had some room for positive regression in both BABIP and HR/FB, the potential for a mediocre rebound was not enough to justify picking up the $4.5 million option the club held for the 2011 season.
Seattle declined the option, but still controlled Lopez through arbitration. They traded that control to the Colorado Rockies in early December where Lopez quickly signed a one-year deal with $3.6 million to avoiding an arbitration hearing. With several openings along the infield as well as moving from Safeco to Coors Field, there appeared to be some hope for a revival in Colorado.
Those hopes were dashed on Tuesday when the Rockies released Lopez after just 39 games. Despite the change of scenery, his offensive production decreased across the board. In 129 plate appearance with Colorado, he earned a .237 wOBA with a career-low 0.88 ISO. His already poor walk rate (3.7% career) dropped down to 2.3% and he continued to swing at an above-average amount of pitches outside the strike zone.
Nevertheless, Lopez is still in his 20s and just two years removed from a 2.4 WAR season. At the cost of the league minimum, it appeared likely that a team would take a flier on him. Less than 48 hours after his release, the Florida Marlins inked Lopez to a minor league deal.
With top prospect Matt Dominguez on the verge of a big-league call up, the signing provides the Marlins with organizational depth if nothing else. In the unlikely event Lopez can regain his average-ness, the Marlins could use some help at second base where Omar Infante’s bat ranks near the bottom of the league at the position.
The odds of Lopez and his 33 wRC+ finding success in Florida are slim; however, that does not make the signing an exercise in futility for the Marlins. With few internal minor-league options along the infield, the minimal risk of a minor-league deal is worth the chance of Lopez becoming a semi-productive player once again. As long as players like Paul Janish and Wilson Valdez continue to occupy major league roster spots, there is a chance Jose Lopez can one day re-join them.