The Chicago Cubs are done making any major moves this offseason, and therefore, are apparently going to head into the 2010 season with a Mike Fontenot/Jeff Baker platoon at second base (unless Starlin Castro absolutely destroys Spring Training, claiming the shortstop job, and bumping Ryan Theriot over to second). I’m not going to gripe about it, because I believe a properly-employed platoon could be successful.
That said, it still puzzles me why the Cubs didn’t even look at a guy like Orlando Hudson – solid defensively, and a natural fit at the top of the order. He did sign for a relatively healthy chunk of money, so perhaps he was always out of range. And it’s not like there is some other second baseman out there who is still unsigned, would thus come cheaply, and who could hit at the top of the order. Oh wait … that guy in the headline.
It’s been a tough offseason for Felipe Lopez. Yesterday, the free agent infielder fired Scott Boras, likely due to the fact that it’s February 14 and he remains jobless despite a strong 2009 campaign.
The switch-hitter signed a one-year, $3.5MM deal with the Diamondbacks last offseason. Lopez was productive in Arizona, hitting .301/.364/.412 until he was traded to the Brewers in mid-July. All Lopez did in Milwaukee was improve, hitting .320/.407/.448 in 66 games with the Brew Crew. In total, his .310/.383/.427 line combined with his strong UZR/150 of 7.6 at second base last season make for a desirable target. Or one would at least think.
Perhaps teams are scared off by Lopez’s .360 BABIP, which is substantially higher than his career mark of .323. His 10.4% walk rate is higher than his career mark of 9.2% as well, but even that number is above the 2009 league average of 8.9%. It may not be reasonable to expect a .383 OBP again, but in a market where we’ve seen Miguel Tejada sign for one year at $6MM, Orlando Hudson at one year and $5MM, and Pedro Feliz at one year and $4.5MM, it’s hard not to ask why Lopez is still looking for work. After all, he had a better all-around season than all three of those former free agents.
To this point, the only substantial interest we’ve seen in Lopez has been from the Cardinals, though they’ve dedicated a great deal of money to Matt Holliday and Brad Penny this offseason. Last we heard, St. Louis has $6MM-$7MM to spend, and they’ve got question marks in the infield that make Lopez a logical fit. MLBTradeRumors.com.
So as it turns out, there are solid reasons to avoid Lopez, despite his outstanding 2009 campaign. The elevated BABIP is a concern (when BABIP – batting average on balls put in play – spikes, it is usually a product of luck, and is not repeatable), and his career OBP is just .338. That said, he’s been at or above .343 in four of the last five seasons (a disastrous 2007 season is really dragging his numbers down). Lopez can play all over the infield, too.
It’s impossible to imagine Lopez having to settle for a non-guaranteed, minor league deal with a spring training invite – but if he does, the Cubs would be crazy not to reach out. Then again, at that level, virtually every team in baseball would be crazy not to reach out.