Which Teams Could Most Use Felipe Lopez?

Some players appear content to wait out the market. Johnny Damon remains unemployed as pitchers and catchers get ready to report, but he’s vacationing in Hawaii, not a care in the world. Other players appear a bit more impatient. Count Felipe Lopez among the latter crowd. He fired Scott Boras over the weekend, reportedly over frustration that he, like 10.6 percent of Americans, lacks a job. His new representatives at Beverly Hills Sports Council must now find a team needing an upgrade at second or third base.

Over the past year and a half Lopez has placed himself among the top MLB second basemen. In the 849 plate appearances he has accumulated since the Nationals released him in 2008, he has posted a .372 wOBA. Despite the poor first half of 2008 that led to his release, Lopez ranks ninth among second basemen in WAR over the past two years, .02 ahead of both Robinson Cano and Orlando Hudson and only .01 behind Mark DeRosa. His defense plays into that ranking, with a 2.5 UZR over the past two years, seventh among MLB second basemen.

Can Lopez sustain that production? His 4.6 WAR season in 2009 stands out, but CHONE projects him to produce only 2.2 wins above replacement in 2010. A large factor in this projection, it appears, is a regression of his .360 BABIP back to his career norm of .323. With a career high line drive rate of 22.3 percent, along with a career low fly ball rate of 25.9 percent, the regression makes sense. Chances are a number of those line drives will once again become fly balls. A 2.2 WAR would have moved Lopez from the fifth most valuable second baseman in 2009 to the 15th most valuable.

Even so, a number of clubs could still benefit from a stronger second baseman, even as we creep closer to spring training. The problem isn’t so much with the upgrade, however, as it is with money. Many teams have reached their spending limits, despite fielding less than adequate players at a number of positions, including second base. The Astros and Padres fall into this group, as they fielded, and will again field in 2010, two of the worst second basemen in the league. Only a few teams remain that need another infielder and have the money to sign one.

The Cardinals, for whom Lopez thrived in 2008, were reportedly interested in Lopez in December, before Matt Holliday signed, and still have some money to spend. Lopez might have to accept a reduced role there, however, as David Freese figures to get a long look at third base this spring. Over the past two seasons at AAA he has hit .304/.363/.542 in 664 at-bats. He’ll turn 27 just after the season starts, so the Cards might want Lopez as an insurance policy just in case Freese can’t come close to replicating his PCL numbers.

The Cubs could be another suitor. They ranked 27th in wOBA from their second basemen in 2009 and didn’t make many moves to upgrade for 2010. But, with their payroll over $135 million for 2010, they might be content with a platoon of
Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker. CHONE projects them to combine for 717 plate appearances and 2.5 WAR, so unless they see something they don’t like in spring training it remains unlikely that they’ll spend the extra money on Lopez.

Like many of his fellow free agents, Lopez lost the waiting game. Had he signed in December, or even early January, he might have commanded a contract similar to Hudson’s one-year, $5 million deal. Now it appears that he’ll have to settle for much less, not only in money but perhaps also in playing time. Unless he forces his way into an everyday lineup with his bat, that’s going to cost him even more money next off-season. What kind of offers, I wonder, did Scott Boras turn down?

Print This Post

Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

17 Responses to “Which Teams Could Most Use Felipe Lopez?”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. OremLK says:

    Houston could definitely find a way for him to start, whether that be at second, third, or even shortstop. They have nothing in the infield. The fact that he can play around -1 win defense at short is better than any of their current options for backing up Tommy Manzella (mentioned by R.J. earlier today).

    The main thing standing in the way is that Ed Wade got too trigger-happy (what else is new) and signed Geoff Blum for $1.5 million and Pedro Feliz for $4.5 million early in the off-season, and the roster is full. Also, I have the feeling Wade overvalues intangibles and “clubhouse presence” and Lopez still has a bit of a bad rep on that front.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. AInquisition says:

    I wouldn’t be against the Sox picking him up, and putting Beckham back at 3rd, but I’m really pessimistic on Teahen.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Jeff says:

    PLEASE let the Mets gets smart here. Castillo is a sunk cost, and you could probably snag Lopez for what you were offering Molina. Solidifies infield w/ insurance against Murphy and gives you another bat with decent skills.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. IvanGrushenko says:

    Twins could still use a 3B. Other holes on at least semi-contending teams:

    Mets 2B
    Marlins 3B (if Cantu moves to 1B)
    Dodgers 2B
    Rockies 2B
    Brewers 3B
    Giants 2B (unless Sanchez is Lazarus)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. the Hobbit says:

    Given their unfortunate series of events last year, Lopez would be a good signing for the Mets. He can play a number of positions competently.. I believe he could in a pinch play three of 4 infield spots. If they want to think outside the box they could sign Johnny Damon for first base

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. PL says:

    If Pennington doesnt work out he certainly would fit at SS in Oakland. Unfortunately its not going to be until June or July to figure that out.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Jon E says:

    I think Lopez would be a nice fit in Detroit. Inge is coming off surgery and probably should sit a bit more often than he does. Also Scott Sizemore has been a bit injury prone and Lopez provides a fallback if Sizemore struggles some. He’d be a nice pinch-hitter for Adam Everett as well

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • LeeTro says:

      I don’t see why Lopez couldn’t play SS. Everett produced only 0.9 wins in 390 AB, and can’t really be relied upon for more playing time than that. Lopez at worst, in a full season, would probably be worth -5 runs batting and -15 fielding at SS, which ends up at 1 win. Between Everett and Sizemore, Lopez would have a starting spot.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. jirish says:

    There are a lot of teams that could use Lopez-Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, Seattle, Twins, and Marlins come immediately to mind.

    Maybe a team like the Padres, Pirates, or Indians-teams that could use him for depth and to guard against a younsgter blowing up, or perhaps to hold a youngsters arbitration clock to less than a super-2-might like to buy him now for depth insurance and/or to flip to a contender at the deadline.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Al says:

      I’d love to see Lopez in Cleveland, but apparently the front office is cool on his defensive ability. I just can’t understand why they went after Hudson, who doesn’t offer them much utility right now, IMO, and won’t go for Lopez, who could really help out in the ways you mention above.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Ben says:

    To me, the best fits would be the Astros, Cardinals, Indians, and Royals. Felipe is certainly better then Tommy Manzella (at least at the moment), Brendan Ryan/David Freese, Luis Valbuena, and Alberto Callaspo/Chris Getz. I have seen him play a ton and he is great, except in the field. If a team can get over his shortcomings in the field, they should definately take a chance on him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. C5H8NNaO4 says:

    I’ve been looking for people to say that Lopez should play for Minny, because truthfully I think Lopez should play for Minny (3rd). Understandably people have concerns about playing him at the hot corner because he doesn’t provide the average pop of most 3rd baseman, but Punto and Tolbert have like 10 combined long balls. I saw someone say the Sox shoud pick him up, awful idea, Teahen is due for a breakout year, 30hrs, write that down.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Gilbert says:

    In the 2nd paragraph were you comparing him to MLB SS or 2B?
    “His defense plays into that ranking, with a 2.5 UZR over the past two years, seventh among MLB shortstops.”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Also, grammar watch:
    “His defense plays into that ranking, with a 2.5 UZR over the past two years, seventh among MLB shortstops.” should probably read MLB 2B’s, as he’s only played a handful of innings at SS in the past 2 seasons

    Vote -1 Vote +1