Report: Rays & Felipe Lopez Close To A Minor League Deal | The Process Report

Report: Rays & Felipe Lopez Close To A Minor League Deal

On the day the team introduced two Scott Boras clients – Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon – word on the street is the team will add a former Boras client to the mix soon. It is being reported that veteran infielder Felipe Lopez is close to signing a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Lopez had a disappointing 2010 season that started with the St. Louis Cardinals and ended with Boston Red Sox.

Lopez, 30, has played in the major leagues for the past decade, splitting his time among seven different organizations. For his career, he is close to a league average hitter (.322 career wOBA), but enjoyed some good seasons. He was an all-star as a member of the Cincinnati Reds (.360 wOBA) in 2005, and was worth nearly four wins in 2009 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers. This past season he posted a dismal slash line of .233/.311/.345 and was released by the Cardinals in early September. Red Sox took a flier on him for the rest of the season and offered the Type-B free agent arbitration this winter.

In a bit of gamesmanship, the signing of Lopez to a minor league deal could mean no compensation pick for rival Boston. We had a reverse of this situation last season when the Red Sox signed Rays’ type-B free agent, Brian Shouse to a minor league deal; however, Shouse did not make the club. If Lopez makes the opening day roster of the Rays, Boston could petition Major League Baseball for a pick, but there is no guarantee they would receive one. Mike Axisa mentions Boston may be able to petition for a pick if Lopez is on the Rays MLB roster at any point before the June Draft.

All winter long, the backup middle infield spot has belonged to an uncontested Elliot Johnson. Johnson, 26, enjoyed a monster season with the Durham Bulls (.319/.375/.475) last season year being removed from the 40-man roster at the end of last spring. The versatile fielder who can play three positions on the infield (2B,SS,3B) and all three outfield positions saw brief major league action in 2008. Because of his breakout campaign, positional flexibility, and re-instatement on the 40-man roster at seasons end, Johnson looked to have a pretty strong hold on a 25-man roster spot. Now, Lopez presents a real challenge.

Even with his struggles last season, the switch-hitting Lopez owns a career OPS of .731 in over 4,500 career plate appearances. In fact, his OPS is an exact match of the departed Jason Bartlett. Defensively, has appeared in a game at all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots. He even pitched some in 2010. According to defensive metrics, he is a below-average defender overall, but in a reserve role some of those defensive shortcomings may be lessened.

More than anything, the Rays love organization depth. The fact that the younger, more athletic Johnson is out of options could tip the scale in his favor; especially if Lopez is willing to spend some time in Durham to start the season – a la Joaquin Benoit in 2010. If nothing else, Lopez gives the team another safeguard against ineffectiveness or injury at the low cost of a minor league deal with the potential to be a major league contributor.

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