Last week, the Cardinals finally signed Felipe Lopez to a 1 year deal worth 2.2 Million dollars if he achieves all of the required incentives. This move is a logical, if unspectacular one for the Cards who now have a plethora of middle infielders. Lopez joins Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker, and Julio Lugo. With Ryan’s wrist surgery leaving his return date in doubt, Lopez provides some insurance at SS. Rookie David Freese is favored for the open third base spot, but if he falters early on, expect Lopez to see time there, as well. This all demonstrates one of Lopez’ greatest assets: versatility. However, some of that versatility has some faults. His defense at SS is downright bad. Going from Ryan to Lopez could be a 20 UZR swing for the worse on defense alone. His glove at 2B has been all over the place the past few years, but he’s likely a plus defender there, and his glove at 3B is likely about average.
That brings us to his offensive contributions. Lopez had the best year of his career last year, posting a .356 wOBA. That’s good for a second baseman, but it looks to be an unsustainable level for him. He had a .358 BABIP, a full 38 points above his career average, as well as a 22% line drive rate, which is also above his career norm. This screams for a return to average. It’s going to take a lot more luck for Lopez to post the same numbers this season, but luckily enough for the Cardinals they didn’t have to drop big time money on him. A maximum investment of 2.2 million is very easy to swallow, even if Lopez flops. The likelihood of that, however, is as high as him repeating his 2009. After posting a 4.6 WAR last year, I’m predicting he’ll fall back into his averages a bit in most categories. With him potentially playing some SS and even OF, his defense is likely to take a hit this year, as well. So, with that said, I’m going to predict somewhere between a 1.5-2.5 WAR season for Lopez.
Overall, this is a good move by the Cardinals because they assume very little risk with this contract. Their only problem is going to be where to play all of the middle infielders they now have.