As the weeks pass and the offseason comes to a close, I'm left wondering why Felipe Lopez is still a free agent.
After posting an impressive second half in 2008 as a Cardinal, Lopez was signed to a one year, $3.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Over the first half of the season, Lopez continued his 2008 success. In 383 at bats in Arizona, Lopez posted a .301/.364/.412/.776 line, generating a 2.0 WAR in the process.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers were searching for a second baseman after an early injury to Rickie Weeks. Lopez was traded midseason to Milwaukee in exchange for minor leaguers Cole Gillespie and Roque Mercedes. As a Brewer, Lopez racked up 297 at bats and posted a ridiculous .320/.407/.448/.855 line.
While Lopez exceeded expectations in Milwaukee, he was not offered arbitration for fear he might accept. I was very quick to criticize this move considering Lopez was a type B free agent and could have landed Milwaukee a sandwich pick between the first and second round of the 2010 amateur draft. Considering Lopez would get around $4 million in arbitration, I figured that number would easily get surpassed in the free agent waters. Seriously, who would not want Lopez' services? He had an incredible 2009 with the bat and glove. Here's a quick look at 2009 numbers while playing for both teams.
At Bats: 680
Batting Average: .310
On-Base Percentage: .383
Slugging Percentage: .427
All that adds up to is a 4.6 WAR season. Let me repeat that; Lopez' 2009 WAR was 4.6. Despite that incredible season, Lopez still remains a free agent gathering very little buzz. In fact, one could argue the Brewers made the right decision by not offering Lopez arbitration considering the lack of interest he's generated this offseason. I would argue $4 million is a pretty good bargain for a 4.6 WAR player, but the Brewers don't have money, or a spot for Lopez to play everyday.
Nevertheless, it still shocks me what has happened thus far. Lopez could very easily regress back into his old form, but I still thought he would receive a healthy deal this winter. Second baseman who can hit and field are tough to come by. The Philadelphia Phillies confirmed this by signing Placido Polanco to a 3yr/$18 million deal earlier this offseason. Taking a look at 2009, Lopez outproduced Polanco in most offensive categories and was comparable defensively. I'm not saying Lopez is a better player than Polanco, but based off 2009 he was.
We are at a time in baseball where bargains can be found in free agency. As big names sign early, teams usually overpay for their talent. Sure lesser names like Ryan Garko can be had for cheap, but I really didn't expect this to happen to Felipe Lopez. For how good he played last season, his phone should be ringing off the hook. Whoever signs Lopez will be getting a great bargain. I don't think he will reproduce another 4.6 WAR season, but expecting a 3.0 WAR is not out of the question.