In the moments leading up to the non-tender deadline, the Mariners managed to move second baseman Jose Lopez, receiving minor league pitcher Chaz Roe from the Rockies in return. Seattle was planning to non-tender Lopez, who was a major disappointment in his seven-year Mariner career.
Lopez showed moderate power at times with Seattle, but his career has been marred by an inability to reach base, as shown by his triple slash line of .266/.297/.401. When Lopez was right, he provided some value. In 2006, 2008, and 2009, Lopez produced a wRC+ over 90 in each season and respective WARs of 1.7, 2.4, and 2.6. But 2007 and 2010 saw two offensive implosions, as Lopez only managed a 68 wRC+ in both campaigns. The result: -0.2 WAR in 2007 and +0.7 WAR in 2010. That 2010 mark was also based on a suspect +8 UZR at 3B, far different from Lopez’s reputation there (-7 FSR, matching up with what I’ve read from various Mariners outlets).
So, what does Lopez have to offer the Rockies? With the bat, one look at his home run chart (via HitTrackerOnline) should tell us.
This chart is from 2009, but you won’t find much different with the rest of Lopez’s career. Only three of Lopez’s 73 HRs since 2006 have gone to the opposite field. Unfortunately for Lopez, he has played 81 games per season in one of the toughest parks for right handed batters to hit home runs, and, more importantly, pull home runs in that time frame. The move from Seattle to Colorado should help Lopez’s offensive game immensely. According to StatCorner, the park factor for right handed HRs in Seattle was a paltry 84 (only Oakland, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh play tougher) compared to a robust 117 in Colorado. The change in park isn’t going to make Lopez into an elite hitter- regardless of how much his power goes up, he just can’t take a walk. But, while it is true that every hitter fits better in Colorado than he would in Seattle, a hitter with Lopez’s profile should see an even greater benefit.
Lopez doesn’t necessarily have to start, either. Between Chris Nelson, Johnathan Herrera, and Eric Young Jr., the Rockies certainly have other options for second base next season. Herrera, in particular, showed that he might be ready for a full time job in The Show, posting a .311 wOBA in 257 PAs last year. None of these options is by any means a sure thing, and Lopez could also serve as a backup for Ian Stewart as third base. Particularly with Clint Barmes gone, Lopez can either start at second base or backup both the keystone and the hot corner.
It’s hard to blame Seattle for giving up on Lopez. He was among the worst possible fits for that ballpark and didn’t fit into the future of the organization. For Colorado, with some uncertainty at second base and at the least a need for depth, the acquisition of Lopez for cheap works perfectly. Both teams get what they want here, and now we get to see how Jose Lopez can perform in a park that isn’t designed to stop him.