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.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.