Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Does Jose Lopez deserve another shot?
The Mariners already declined their $5 million option on Jose Lopez for next season. Now it seems they're going to non-tender him, too, essentially making him a free agent.
Prior to this latest news, Geoff Baker detailed the Mariners' thinking about Lopez ...
You can see why the M's would opt to give Lopez one more crack after that, hoping he could produce such numbers over an entire year, especially coming off a 25-homer season in 2009. His salary for 2010, coming in at $2.75 million, wasn't exactly prohibitive. The Mariners also used that season to test Lopez out as a third baseman and he didn't look too shabby, though the play of shortstops Jack and Josh Wilson helped cover a lot of ground to Lopez's left. It wasn't an accident. The defense was positioned to minimize Lopez's flaws.
Even so, it became largely irrelevant. The bottom fell out on Lopez's offense in 2010 and that has so far made him untradeable. The Mariners declined to pick up his $5 million option for 2011 (an extra $500,000 added to that pile once he accumulated 500 plate appearances last season), meaning he is now arbitration eligible.
Some have suggested the M's could offer Lopez arbitration and then try to trade him.
That is true. But it seems like too much of a risk for too little reward potential.
It's not like the M's can offer Lopez ten bucks in arbitration, then pawn him off. The system doesn't work that way. You can't offer an arbitration eligible player anything more than a 20 percent pay cut under the current collective bargaining agreement.
That means the minimum Lopez would be offered is a $2.2 million salary.
And he could counter that with a claim for, say, $3 million. Or even $4 million. And whatever the arbitrator decides, that's what he'd get. There is no middle ground. Arbitration is a funny thing and teams never really know how it's going to work out. Pay cuts are not unheard of, but nor are they common. You'd think a player who performed as poorly as Lopez would be in-line for a cut. But you just never know. His side could argue that he was bounced around the lineup, into a cleanup role he was ill-suited for and moved to a new position where modern stats suggest he was one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.
So, would you roll the dice on that?
Well, yeah. I probably would.
In 2008 and '09, Lopez was worth roughly $10 million ... in each season. Granted, those two seasons were sandwiched by 2007 and 2010, in which he was worth very little. If he's physically capable, though, wouldn't we expect him to be worth at least $5 million in 2011?
You can't really blame the Mariners for letting Lopez go. They're coming off a terrible season and Lopez didn't help. They've watched him, over the last two seasons, draw the grand total of 47 walks and reach base precisely 28.7 percent of the time. They're probably just tired of watching him. It's only natural.
Lopez will bounce back, though, won't he? His contact rate and his line-drive percentage and his ground-ball percentage and all the rest of them were right in line with the rest of his career. Well, almost all the rest of them. His home runs per fly ball percentage was down significantly from the previous two seasons. Was he weaker in 2010? Or just unluckier?
I don't know. I suspect that Lopez can be had this winter for a lot less than $5 million. He won't be a star, and probably won't be the comeback player of the year or anything. But he could be a solid pickup for a team that's desperate for a cheap third baseman who can't really get on base or a cheap second baseman who can't really play second base.