We’ve spent a lot of time this winter talking about how Johnny Damon took a backseat to Matt Holliday getting his cash with agent Scott Boras. On second thought, at least Damon has been in the car. Free agent infielder Felipe Lopez has been left on the side of the road with his thumb in the air.
Frustrated that he is without a team just days before pitchers and catchers report, Lopez has fired Boras, signing on with Beverly Hills Sports Council, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. It’s hard to argue with Lopez here, who surely thought he had a nice payday coming after the best season of his career. Lopez, who turns 30 in May, batted .310/.383/.427 with nine home runs and 57 RBI with the Diamondbacks and Brewers last season. As I compiled in November, Lopez ranked fourth among impending free agents in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 2009.
A former first-round pick of the Blue Jays in 1998, Lopez has never really matched the considerable hype attached to him early on, but even if he won’t be paid like a four or five win player at this point, he’s exactly the kind of infielder a team just be investing in. He’s still young and can play a variety of positions without embarrassing himself. Yet we’ve largely seen teams opt for short commitments with veteran infielders.
Placido Polanco – three years, $18 million (Phillies)
Marco Scutaro – two years, $12.5 million (Red Sox)
Orlando Hudson – one year, $5 million (Twins)
Jamey Carroll – two years, $3.85 million (Dodgers)
Juan Uribe – one year, $3.25 million (Giants)
Orlando Cabrera – one year, $3.02 million (Reds)
Alex Gonzalez – one year, $2.75 million (Blue Jays)
Kelly Johnson – one year, $2.35 million (Diamondbacks)
Craig Counsell – one year, $2.1 million (Brewers)
Adam Everett – one year, $1.55 million (Tigers)
Adam Kennedy – one year, $1.25 million (Nationals)
According to Stark, the Cardinals are the only known club to have interest in Lopez. It makes even more sense as a match after Brendan Ryan’s recent wrist surgery, but Lopez may have a few more suitors now that Boras is out of the way.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.
Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.
The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.
Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.
The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.
He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.