Cardinals Sign Felipe Lopez

Not 24 hours after the UCB debated what holes remain on the projected 2010 Cardinals roster, the team went a long way to filling one.  ESPN and the St Louis Post-Dispatch are reporting the Cardinals have signed Felipe Lopez to a one-year deal worth about $2 million plus incentives.  The deal is not final until Lopez passes a physical, scheduled for Saturday.

Cot’s Baseball Contracts has not posted any details on this signing, so I can’t comment on what the incentives are.

Let’s take a look at this deal.

First and most importantly Lopez fills a critical need on the Cardinal bench – that of a left handed bat.  He has a career .329 wOBA and a .134 ISO as a lefty.  From the right side, it’s .318 and .116 respectively.  He has experience all over the infield, including one game at first.  OK, so he probably won’t play much first, but he is another backup option  to 2B.  He is a much better 2B (5.1 UZR, 2.6 UZR/150) than SS (-42.3, -11.2 respectively).  Dewan plus/minus isn’t all that kind to him either defensively.  At 2B, his plus/minus numbers were +8 (to his right), -4 (straight on), -5 (to his left).  He’s only played 79 innings at SS since the start of the 2008 season, and Dewan had him as +1/0/-1 respectively in 2008, so hard to draw any conclusions there.

Yep, his value to the Cardinals is his bat.  Felipe posted a .356 wOBA and .810 OPS last season, his best effort since 2005.  The Cardinals are certainly hoping he’ll provide some of that pop as a pinch hitter or late game replacement.

Looking at this deal dispassionately, he certainly brings a left handed presence to the Cardinal bench.  However his defense doesn’t do anything for me.  Lugo’s a better option at SS, and Lugo’s defense has been declining for a couple of years now.  Lopez is a better 2B than Schumaker, but I don’t think the Cardinals will turn 2B into an open competition this spring.  Do you?

Figuring Lopez will return to his 2006-2009 form as a bench player, he’s probably good for 1 WAR in 2010.  The good news is that, by far, makes him the best player on the bench.  The bad news is the bench remains pretty thin.  At least it isn’t as thin as it was 24 hours ago.

Welcome back to St Louis, Felipe Lopez.

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