Jan
03

The case for Felipe Lopez

By

As the Yankees continue their pursuit of quality bench help, they’ve watched as talks with the Astros about Jeff Keppinger fell apart and movement on the Jerry Hairston Jr. front crawled to a standstill. There are plenty of other bench options on the free agent market, but they all have their warts. If they didn’t, teams would be after them as starters. One player that was a bonafide big league regular as recently as 2009 has seen his stock drop considerably thanks to a down 2010 campaign, and the Yankees could be in a position to capitalize. That player: Felipe Lopez.

Can't have that number in New York, Felipe. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Lopez looked to be the bargain signing of the offseason last winter, when the Cardinals got him for just one year and $1M guaranteed in late February. Things didn’t go as planned and Lopez hit just .231/.310/.340 (.295 wOBA, .273 BABIP) in 425 plate appearances before St. Louis released him. The Red Sox grabbed him late in the season, played him in exactly four games, and then offered him arbitration as a Type-B free agent after the season (so they’ll get a supplemental first round pick when he signs elsewhere, but his new team won’t have to surrender one). Lopez and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa apparently had a dislike for each other, which in part led to the release. This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve heard about a player and TLR not seeing eye-to-eye, but I digress.

Obviously, any team that signs Lopez is going to do so hoping that his poor 2010 season was the result of playing in an uncomfortable environment rather than a decline in skills. From 2006 through 2009, a period in which he accumulated just short of 2,600 plate appearances (so small sample size warnings do not apply), Lopez hit .278/.349/.387 (.327 wOBA, .324 BABIP). If you look at just 2008 and 2009 (over 1,200 plate appearances and Lopez’s age 28 and 29 seasons), he hit .298/.366/.409 (.340 wOBA, .345 BABIP). Unlike Keppinger and Hairston, who are right-handed hitters, Lopez is a switch-hitter and he doesn’t have much of a platoon split: career .325 wOBA against righties, .318 against lefties. While he doesn’t offer much power (just a .129 ISO for his career), it’s obvious he can hit for at least a respectable average and draw enough walks (above average 10.24 BB% over the last two years) to yield quality on-base percentages.

When it comes to baseball skills that don’t involve a bat, Lopez is adequate at best. He has extensive experience at all three non-first base infield spots, though he’s awful at short according to UZR per 150 defensive games (-10.7 career) while being no better than average at second (-1.0) and third (+0.7). Lopez even has some experience in the corner outfield spots, but we’re talking about 109 career innings total. It’s not enough to think he could fill in there regularly. Once upon a time he was a baserunning threat, swiping 68 bases in 89 tries (76.4%) in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, but he’s tailed off since then (just 22 steals in 38 tries since, an unacceptable 57.9% success rate). Baseball Prospectus’ baserunning stats have Lopez at just about average in non-stolen base baserunning situations (going first-to-third, scoring from second on a single, etc.) over the last two seasons, but that would be an upgrade for the Yankees based on recent years.

Lopez’s career arc compared very favorably to Juan Uribe’s until this past season, and the latter’s name popped up as a potential bench target for the Yankees a few times this offseason. Uribe landed a three-year contract worth $21M from the Dodgers, but Lopez will get nothing close to that. He settled for that one-year, $1M deal in 2010 coming off a pretty damn good year in 2009, so what could he possibly expect this time around after the year he had? I mean, at best he’d get that same 1/1 deal again, which is nothing at all. The problem will likely be playing time more than anything. Lopez needs to rebuild his value so that he can land a nice contract next offseason, and he won’t be able to do that sitting on the Yankees bench. Maybe they can work something out, maybe they can’t, but either way Lopez is one available piece that could make sense for the Yanks in a reserve role, where he could take the place of Eduamiro Penunez.

Categories : Hot Stove League

30 Comments»

  1. Mike Ri says:

    I like the idea of Lopez. Also like Orlando Caberra as well.

    • whozat says:

      No on Cabrera. He hasn’t been useful with the bat for a couple years, has no experience anywhere other than SS, and is probably average there now (bad in 2009, a bit above average in 2010). If we want that…why not just use Ramiro Pena? At least he plays well all around teh diamond.

    • STEVE RANDEL says:

      Neither Lopez or Cabrara would pan out in New York. Both are on downside and not particularly good in the clubhouse, especially Lopez.

  2. Mike Myers says:

    Id offer 2 yrs at 2.5mm total. Tell him there is a 99% chance that Jeter or AROD misses a ton of time due to injury.

  3. Wil Nieves #1 Fan says:

    I like the idea of Lopez coming off the bench. Particularly since the cost will most likely be pretty reasonable.

  4. Beantown Bombers Fan says:

    Why didn’t he have accepted arbitration from the Sux? He’d probably have got more then he’ll get right now dollar-wise.

    • Beantown Bombers Fan says:

      I do like the idea of him being a utily guy in 2011 for the Yanks.

    • radnom says:

      Why didn’t he have accepted arbitration from the Sux? He’d probably have got more then he’ll get right now dollar-wise.

      The same reason he won’t sign with the Yankees (probably) — he can get similar money with more playing time elsewhere.

      • whozat says:

        And that “more playing time” gives him the upside of making more money in the future, if he can convince someone he’s worthy of a starting gig again.

  5. RealFan says:

    Eduardo Nunez has minor league numbers similar to Robinson Cano. He can run and field. Why get a second rate hand me down.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Wha?

      Nunez: .274/.318/.369
      Cano: .278/.331/.425

      • whozat says:

        Nunez: .274/30/300 in 6 seasons
        Cano: .278/41/281 in 6 seasons

        I assume that this (not-that-relevant) set of numbers is what the poster is talking about.

    • Eduardo Nunez, worse than a second-rate hand-me-down. I don’t know why so many Yankee fans have a metaphorical stiffie for the guy.

      As for the Cano/Nunez comparison, Cano was the Yanks’ starting second baseman at age 22. Eduardo Nunez was in AA at age 22. Please.

      • Tom Zig says:

        He’s a homegrown guy who is better than Ramiro Pena. Plus Cashman refused to include him in a deal for Cliff Lee, so people think he has value. I think I covered it all.

        • Thomas says:

          Don’t forget BA likes him a lot (oddly). They ranked him in their top 10 Yankee prospects.

          • Fair Weather Freddy says:

            But Mike A. doesn’t. Isn’t that more important?

          • whozat says:

            BA often rates on upside and doesn’t really pay attention to probability. Essentially, nothing in his track record justifies BA’s rating of him, his lack of plate discipline means that he NEEDS to realize Cano-like contact skills in order to be good, and he’s not a slick fielding shortstop…so, there’s a lot of stuff that could go wrong — even if BA still like his raw skills, nothing indicates that his odds of turning those skills into production are very good.

      • Monteroisdinero says:

        and a AAA all star at 23. Hit .280 last year and we were playing well with him albeit in limited plate appearances. The sky didn’t fall.

        • Eduardo Nunez’s best minor league season was not as good as Cano’s worst. And being a AAA All Star doesn’t exactly portend great things in the majors when you’re bad at getting on base, can’t field too well and are a horrible baserunner. Really don’t see the Nunez love.

          • OldYanksFan says:

            Yeah… except we are not looking for an elite starter, but an adequate UINF. We already have Nunez. What not see what he’s got? Is it crazy to think he can have a .700 OPS and play average Defense? Isn’t that all you need from a UINF?

  6. Andy in Sunny daytona says:

    If I remember correctly, I thought MLB said that if someone signs Lopez to a minor league contract, that the Red Sox would not receive a comp pick.

    • whozat says:

      I believe that comp picks are only given upon the signing of a major league deal, yeah.

    • Howie says:

      I am opposed to giving Lopez a major league deal on the principle that it would give the Red Sox that compensation pick.

      • Mike HC says:

        Yea, but if another team is willing to sign him to a major league deal, the Sox get that pick anyway. Not that I particularly want Lopez. I guess he would be fine coming off the bench though if he is willing to give up basically any chance of even competing for a starting job save for injury.

      • Robert says:

        You guys sound worried about the Red Sox. You should be.
        The Sox are loaded with talent up and down the line-up.
        Don’t know where the Yankees will end up ..but it will be because the sons of George want to keep as much of the money that George left behind.
        Your not gonna like playing the Sox at all this yr.
        With or without Lopez……………….

  7. dondbaseball says:

    1. The Red Sox had an agreement with Lopez to offer arbitration but for him to decline it. 2. He has worn out his welcome EVERYWHERE he has played and to think he wouldn’t do so with the Yanks is myopic. 3. Nunez is a major improvement over Pena offensively but I would think Hairston would be more versetile and more consistent offensively than Nunez. None of us have seen enough of Nunez to know if he is Major League starter or sub and to compare him to Cano, is beyond optimistic.

  8. Dave T. says:

    i think lopez,do not have nothing to do with yankees,he has played with lots teams,and he do not play good at all.he is not estable maybe hairstone will do the job with yankees.

  9. tony73 says:

    Why is Cashman worry’ng about his bench when he has’nt got his pitching in order?Seem’s to me he should worry about getting his pitching in order then the bench.Am i missing something here??Cashman,here’s a thought,go get “Soria”cause “Mo”is’nt going to be there forever.

  10. Mark L. says:

    FLop has a major attitude problem that can’t be ignored

  11. JMA says:

    I like Nunez & Pena in the util roll for us. Neither one will get enough ABs to put up good numbers. Pena has gotten some important hits and I think he has a better glove than A-ROD or Jeter. Nunez did not get enough playing time for me to make a judgement.

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