The Cardinals released super-utility infielder Felipe Lopez yesterday after what can only be described as a disappointing 2010 season. Lopez hit only .231/.310/.340 for the Cardinals and rated as relatively poor on defense. All together, Lopez only posted 0.2 WAR in 425 plate appearances for St. Louis. The last straw for Cardinals’ management appears to have been Lopez’s continual tardiness, coming to a head yesterday, according to Fox Sports Midwest.
It’s hard to fault the Cardinals for investing in Lopez, as the season cost them only one million dollars. Lopez was coming off of a career year between the Diamondbacks and the Brewers, a season in which he posted 3.9 WAR and a 116 wRC+. In that sense, it’s kind of a surprise that Lopez was forced to take such a small contract, but apparently teams saw through the .358 BABIP and perhaps some of these behavioral issues which resulted in Lopez’s release were known prior to the season. Regardless, picking up a player who CHONE projected for 2.5 WAR for only a cool million has to be considered a shrewd investment that simply didn’t work out.
Going forward, it’s hard to say that much has changed with Lopez. Outside of BABIP fluctuations, his last four years rate as slightly below average to average as a hitter. Lopez walks slightly more than average and makes slightly more contact than average. His weak spot is his power, as he’s typically a single-digit home run player. Much as his great numbers from 2009 were BABIP supported, his poor numbers from 2010 are a result of a low .272 BABIP. CHONE’s updated projections have Lopez’s slash line at .270/.343/.390, a roughly average line for a MLB hitter.
Given the issues that Lopez apparently had with management as well as the fact that Lopez’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season anyway, the Cardinals’ decision to release Lopez makes sense and is hardly likely to negatively affect their future. But Lopez’s struggles this season don’t suggest that he’s finished as a productive player by any means. It would behoove teams with open infield utility spots on their bench or teams desperate for a 2B or 3B starter to take a look at Lopez next season, as he will likely be cheap once again and he should provide somewhere between one and two wins above replacement.
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