The San Francisco Giants have gotten more than they ever could have asked for from lefty-specialist Javier Lopez. Since being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on deadline day 2010, the lefty has a 2.53 regular season ERA while holding lefty hitters to an average under .200 each year. He’s been even more dominant in the postseason, acting as a sparkplug in the Giants’ 2010 World Series bullpen and being absolutely lights-out last season, giving up no hits over five postseason appearances.
However, the Giants must weigh the consequences this season and determine if there is enough chance of a postseason run that Lopez needs to be kept around. The 36-year-old is a free agent after 2013, and there’s little chance of the Giants bringing him back after the season anyway. They already have millions of dollars invested in lefty setup-man Jeremy Affeldt, and third left-hander Jose Mijares has proven to be effective as well.
Perhaps most importantly, the Giants have a lefty reliever practically knocking down the door in Double-A. 24-year-old Josh Osich likely could have been a first-round pick had it not been for Tommy John surgery prematurely ending his college career, and he ended up falling to the Giants in the sixth round. Since being converted to a full-time relief role in his first professional season last year, Osich has been dominant. He can touch speeds in the upper nineties, and several scouts proclaimed him major-league-ready while he was in Class A last season. Though he has gotten knocked around a bit early on in his Double-A career, it still should not be long before we see him break into the majors.
With San Francisco already having two established lefty relievers and another one close to being able to contribute, they should try to move Lopez if they can get sufficient return value. Since they already have a bit of a bullpen logjam, it would probably do little harm to subtract a lefty specialist, especially if this team continues losing and does not make a playoff run. With the Giants having such a depleted and spread-out farm system — almost all the pitching talent is in the lower minors while the legitimate position players are in Double-A and Triple-A — it would definitely make sense for the organization to try to add as many prospects as possible. With consistent relief pitchers coming at such a premium, it’s likely that the Giants could get some serious talent in exchange for Lopez.
While there is a large amount of emotional value tied to Lopez — he’s a major leader in the bullpen and has always been successful in San Francisco — the Giants must realize that they need to capitalize on his value, especially when he likely will not be brought back next year anyway. If any team approaches the Giants with a good offer, they should not hesitate to move Lopez.