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.
The Red Sox have more or less withdrawn from the Edwin Encarnacion sweepstakes, with Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald noting that much of their reluctance hinges on the likelihood that they’d exceed the new $195 million luxury tax threshold by locking the DH into a lucrative deal. That doesn’t leave them without options, however, and FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the club could be interested in 29-year-old corner infielder Pedro Alvarez, as well as fellow free agents Mike Napoli and Matt Holliday.
After playing just 10 games at DH from 2010 to 2015, Alvarez suited up as the Orioles’ primary designated hitter and part-time third baseman in 2016. His defense is sub-par, to say the least, but he batted .249/.322/.504 with 22 home runs for Baltimore in 2016.
According to Heyman, the Red Sox envision using Alvarez in much the same way the Orioles did. He’d have a place as the team’s DH with the occasional infield start, while Hanley Ramirez would keep his post at first base. Whether the Red Sox make offers to Napoli, Holliday or Alvarez, they’re expected to pursue a short-term deal in order to stay under budget.
The Braves signed left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren to a one-year deal, according to a team announcement on Sunday.
Lindgren, the Yankees’ top draft pick in 2014, was nicknamed “The Strikeout Factory” after blowing through four levels of New York’s farm system in 2014. He started the 2015 season in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was called up for his major league debut only two months into the 2015 season. The 22-year-old lasted seven innings with the club before succumbing to bone chips in his elbow, and underwent bone spur surgery in June before trying his luck again during spring training in 2016.
In August, the Yankees shut Lindgren down for the remainder of the season so the lefty could undergo Tommy John surgery. With a projected return date of 2018, Lindgren was non-tendered by the Yankees on Friday.
While the Braves won’t get the benefit of Lindgren’s top prospect skill set in their bullpen anytime soon, he will remain under club control if they keep him on their 40-man roster beyond the 2017 season (per ESPN’s Keith Law).