If Felipe Lopez earns the maximum payout on his 2010 player contract, he will earn roughly $2.2M from the Cardinals. Lopez was worth nearly 5 wins last season and roughly 3 wins in the three seasons prior to that. Alex Cora has 5.9 WAR since 2002 and he will earn at least $2M next season with the chance to earn $3M with certain incentives, or vest a 2011 option worth an additional $2M.
Besides the fact that life just isn’t fair at time, a few other factors played into Lopez’ pay being lower than Cora’s – even beyond Omar Minaya’s indiscretion in re-signing Cora instead of waiting out the middle-infielder market. Lopez carries with him questionable makeup that removed a few potential suitors and he’s coming off a career season in which he’s highly unlikely to repeat.
The Cardinals’ depth chart up the middle features Brendan Ryan (currently nursing a wrist injury), Julio Lugo, Skip Schumaker, Tyler Green, and minor league invitee Ruben Gotay. Assuming Schumaker can also fill the role of reserve outfielder, there’s a pretty good chance three of those players make the opening day roster with Lopez, with the clear advantages being held in that order. This gives the Cardinals some pretty nice depth, and also allows for an alternative at third base if David Freese is to slip up.
The finances of this deal are excellent for the Cardinals. If he never steps on the field, it’s a sunk cost at the price of a middle reliever. If he plays well, the most he can earn is the price of … well, a slightly better middle reliever. It’s a fail-safe commitment and one that comes on a wildly varying performer. Check his wOBA and plate appearance totals over the last three seasons:
2007: 671 PA, .295 wOBA
2008: 532 PA, .320 wOBA
2009: 680 PA, .356 wOBA
What he’ll do next season is anyone’s guess. CHONE and Marcel combine for a .326 average, which would be more than enough to justify this deal and would essentially equal his career total.
Good job by the opportunistic Cardinals.