UPDATE: Cards sign Felipe Lopez

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Felipe Lopez headshot.jpgUpdate: OK, Johnny Mo is just showing off at this point. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, Lopez will earn a $1 million base salary with $1.2 million in “easily attainable” incentives. Lopez made $3.5 million last season.

Saturday, 11:00 AM: The Cardinals have officially announced the signing. In fact, Lopez is already at Roger Dean Stadium (hat-tip to John Marecek of KTRS in St. Louis).

Friday, 8:55 PM: Heyman writes that he’ll make a $1.75 million base salary. Even better for the Redbirds.

Friday, 8:38 PM: Buster Olney of ESPN confirms the signing. One-year, $2 million, pending a physical.

Friday, 8:00 PM: According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are close to signing free agent infielder Felipe Lopez to a one-year contract. He could take a physical as soon as this weekend, according to the report. If the contract is finalized, he’ll earn a $2 million base salary with a chance for some additional incentives.

Lopez, who earned $3.5 million last season, amazingly has to settle for less money after what was arguably his best season. He batted .310/.383/.427 with nine home runs and 57 RBI for the Diamondbacks and Brewers in ’09 and as I compiled in November, Lopez ranked fourth among impending free agents in WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Lopez became so frustrated this offseason that he recently fired Scott Boras and signed on with Beverly Hills Sports Council.

Lopez, who played 43 games with the Cardinals in 2008, is a pretty nice contingency plan while Brendan Ryan rehabs from wrist surgery. Because of his versatility around the diamond, he could even play some third base on occasion if rookie David Freese struggles or needs a breather. It’s a no-brainer, really.

And for my fellow Mets fans, just a reminder that Alex Cora will make $2 million this season and Luis Castillo is still the starting second baseman.
 

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉