Results tagged ‘ Felipe Lopez ’

Tough market for second basemen

Lopez.jpgInteresting take from FanGraphs.com about the glut of available second baseman and the lack of interested clubs. I thought I would pass it along for the Brewers fans still debating the Brewers’ decision to let Felipe Lopez go into free agency without offering him arbitration. 

Brewers officials reached the same conclusion as the article’s author, that there were too few teams seeking a second sacker this winter, so they declined to make such an offer. Lopez was a Type B free agent, so Milwaukee would have received a compensatory Draft pick between the first- and second rounds next June had they offered Lopez arbitration and he declined before signing with another club. 
Looking at the market, the Brewers worried that Lopez would accept. He’s listed as earning $3.5 million last season, but I’m told that the figure didn’t include incentives that pushed his actual salary higher. Lopez had an outstanding year, so had accepted the Brewers’ offer of arbitration, he might have topped $6 million for 2010. 
Given Milwaukee’s need for pitching, GM Doug Melvin decided that was too high a price for a player who could end up on the bench, so he let Lopez go, re-signed Craig Counsell for one year and $2.1 million and spent the rest of his free agent cash on starter Randy Wolf and reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Melvin says he still has some flexibility left over to troll the market in January and February for bargains. If he doesn’t find any deals to his liking, Melvin could retain that flexibility into June and July to make a pre-trade deadline deal.  
The key, of course, is that Brewers officials are committed to Rickie Weeks as their second baseman. Weeks missed five months of the 2009 season after undergoing wrist surgery but is on track to be ready for 2010. Weeks still has two seasons of club control before he reaches free agency. He earned $2.45 million last year and is eligible for arbitration.
FanGraphs.com suggests that some of the second baseman on the market might have to switch positions to find homes. I’m not sure whether Lopez and agent Scott Boras are open to that, but if they are, Lopez could be well-positioned. He has played 602 career games at shortstop, 300 at third base, 95 at third base and 17 in the outfield. 
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No arbitration offers

As general manager Doug Melvin forecast on Monday, the Brewers did not extend arbitration offers to any of their ranked free agents ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to do so. That means the club won’t reap any Draft compensation in the event that outfielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall, infielder Felipe Lopez or pitchers Braden Looper and David Weathers sign with other clubs.

All five players were Type B free agents. Had the Brewers extended arbitration offers and the players declined, the team would have received a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds of next June’s First-Year Player Draft. Since no offers were made, the Brewers won’t reap any extra picks in 2010.

That’s disappointing for amateur scouting director Bruce Seid, who is already deep into preparation for the Draft. But the risk in extending such offers is that the player can accept, making him signed for the following season at a salary to be determined either in negotiation, or if talks prove unsuccessful, in an arbitration hearing. Players almost always get raises through the process, and that would have certainly been the case for all five of the Brewers’ ranked players.

Four of the decisions were likely easy ones. Melvin has already made it clear he wouldn’t pursue Cameron (who earned $10 million in 2009) or Kendall ($5 million), and the Brewers already paid buyouts to Looper and Weathers instead of exercising club options. The options ($6.5 million for Looper and $3.7 for Weathers) could have cost than what the players would have earned via arbitration, so an offer didn’t make sense.

Lopez, though, was a matter for debate as late as Monday afternoon, when Melvin and his assistants met to finalize their decisions. Lopez earned a reasonably $3.5 million base salary in 2009 and had a career year, batting .310 for the D-backs and Brewers with nine home runs, 57 RBIs, 88 runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. He was at his best after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee, batting .320 for the Brewers with a .407 on-base percentage and filling the void atop the lineup that had existed since second baseman Rickie Weeks was lost to season-ending wrist surgery.

Based on that strong finish, Lopez, who is represented by Scott Boras, will almost certainly seek a multi-year contract. But the Brewers’ decision to not offer him arbitration on Tuesday was a sign that Milwaukee officials, after analyzing which teams will be looking for second basemen this offseason, aren’t convinced he’ll get it.

That left open the possibility that Lopez could accept the offer, and a multimillion dollar bench player probably wouldn’t fit Melvin’s plans. The Brewers are committed to Weeks at second base and are set elsewhere on the infield with first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop Alcides Escobar and either Casey McGehee or Mat Gamel at third base. Lopez has some outfield experience, but Ryan Braun is a fixture in left field for the Brewers and Corey Hart is the incumbent in right. Hart earned $3.25 million last season and is arbitration-eligible once again.

Payroll is tight for the Brewers despite recent cost-cutting measures because Melvin intends to use the bulk of his remaining resources to fix the team’s starting rotation.

“You would love to have that depth,” Melvin said Monday in previewing his looming decisions. “But is [Lopez] going to want to be a part-time player? He’s going to want to be an everyday player, and Rickie is going to want to be an everyday player. In some sense, you also ask, are you willing to trade the possibility of [acquiring] a pitcher for Felipe Lopez? That’s the question.”

On Tuesday, Melvin answered his own question. He’d prefer to save resources for the pitcher.

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Arbitration decisions today

Brewers officials met Monday afternoon to make final decisions, but it appeared they were leaning against extending arbitration offers to any of their five compensation-eligible free agents, including infielder Felipe Lopez

“Where would he play?” general manager Doug Melvin asked. 

Before exploring that question, an arbitration primer is in order: 

Lopez, outfielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall and pitchers Braden Looper and David Weathers all qualified as Type B free agents, meaning the Brewers could reap a compensatory pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft should any of those players sign with another team. 

But in order to qualify for compensation, the Brewers would have to first extend an offer of arbitration to those eligible free agents. If the player declines, the Brewers would be compensated when he signs elsewhere; former teams get a first- or second-round pick from the player’s new club plus a so-called “sandwich pick” between the first two rounds for a Type A free agent, or just a sandwich pick for a Type B player. 

But if the player accepts the offer, he is considered signed for the next season at a salary to be determined, usually higher than the previous season. That possibility can present a risk teams are unwilling to take.

That risk is why the Brewers have been expected all along to decline making offers to Cameron ($10 million salary in 2009) and Kendall ($5 million). The team already declined club options on Looper ($6.5 million) and Weathers ($3.7 million), making an arbitration offer extremely unlikely. Why would the team pay those players buyouts only to bring them back several weeks later?

But many expected that the team would offer arbitration to Lopez, who is coming off a season split between Arizona and Milwaukee in which he batted a career-best .310 with 88 runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. Lopez was relatively reasonable at $3.5 million. 

Lopez is likely to seek a multiyear contract, and would have to decline an arbitration offer from the Brewers to get one. Because he narrowly missed qualifying for Type A compensation, he is actually more attractive to rival clubs because they would forfeit a Draft pick.

But the Brewers are wary of what they would do if Lopez were to accept. The team is committed to Rickie Weeks at second base and already has two players (Casey McGehee and Mat Gamel) to play third. Lopez has some experience in the outfield, but the Brewers have Ryan Braun set in left field and Corey Hart in right. 

Melvin is already working on a tight budget and wants to preserve as much payroll space as possible to improve the team’s pitching. A multi-million-dollar reserve infielder might not fit Melvin’s plans. 

“You would love to have that depth,” Melvin said. “But is [Lopez] going to want to be a part-time player? He’s going to want to be an everyday player, and Rickie is going to want to be an everyday player. In some sense, you also ask, are you willing to trade the possibility of [acquiring] a pitcher for Felipe Lopez? That’s the question.” 

Melvin has proposed a series of changes to Major League Baseball’s Draft process, and free agent compensation is one of his beefs. He doesn’t expect any changes to come out of next week’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.  

“If we want to sign a Type A free agent, we would lose a second-round pick, but we don’t have a way to get picks back,” Melvin said. “Our whole Draft process needs to be redone.” 

The deadline for teams to extend arbitration offers to their free agents is 10:59 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Players who get offers have until Dec. 7 to accept.

Melvin expects Counsell & Co. to hit open market

Thursday is the final day for teams to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is not anticipating striking any deals before the market opens in earnest.

“No,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think they want to sign, personally. They want to wait until Friday and hope someone picks up the phone and makes them an offer they never thought they would get.”

Beginning Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET, free agents are free to field those calls from all 30 teams. Before then, during a 15-day window that follows the World Series, other teams can only express general interest but are technically barred from making any offers.

The Brewers have nine outgoing free agents: Outfielders Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto and Corey Patterson, infielders Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez, catcher Jason Kendall and pitchers Braden Looper, Claudio Vargas and David Weathers. Looper and Weathers hit the market after the Brewers declined their options.

Melvin wouldn’t say which of those players he would like to bring back to avoid giving other teams an idea of the Brewers’ thinking. He did say this month that the Carlos Gomez acquisition likely closed the door on Cameron, that the Brewers might not be able to afford Kendall unless he takes a serious pay cut and that the team remains committed to Rickie Weeks at second base, making a Lopez return very unlikely.

Counsell seems the most likely incumbent on the Brewers’ radar but a report this week said that as many as 12 teams had expressed interest. That’s not surprising at all given Counsell’s defensive versatility and his outstanding 2009 season at the plate, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could field multi-year offers.

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Free agency period is on

FAs2.jpg Let the offseason begin.

When the Yankees clinched the World Series on Wednesday night, it kick-started the season after the season for all 30 teams, not to mention the dozens of unattached players looking for new homes. Thursday began a 15-day period for those players to formally file for free agency, during which they may only negotiate with their current team.

The Brewers have seven such players, including two — center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall — who have been fixtures in the starting lineup in the past two seasons. The other players eligible to file are outfielder Frank Catalanotto, infielder Craig Counsell, second baseman Felipe Lopez, outfielder Corey Patterson and pitcher Claudio Vargas.

Two others must wait to learn whether they will join the free agent pool. The Brewers have 10 days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise their half of Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option and whether to pick up reliever David Weathers’ $3.7 million club option.

Looper, who led the team with 14 wins and tied for the National League with 34 starts but ran up a 5.22 ERA and led the Major Leagues by allowing 39 home runs, is a particularly interesting case. The Brewers would have to pay a $1 million buyout if they declined his option. 

In August it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Brewers, who are short on pitching prospects at the top levels of the Minor Leagues, would bring Looper back. But a high-ranking club official indicated during the final week of the season that Looper’s future with the team was now up for debate. He went 5-2 in September/October but posted a 6.58 ERA and a .349 opponents’ average. With general manager Doug Melvin intent on bringing in two new starters — his stated goal last month — and the Brewers’ four other ’09 starters under contract for 2010, Looper could conceivably be one of the odd men out. 

If the Brewers decline Weathers’ option, they owe him a $400,000 buyout. 

Among the players already eligible for free agency, Cameron, Counsell, Kendall and Vargas are the likely priorities. Lopez was excellent after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee — .with a 320 batting average and a .407 on-base percentage in 297 plate appearances — but Melvin made it clear that he is committed to Rickie Weeks at second base. If that’s the case, it appears the Brewers don’t have a spot for Lopez. 

Also on Thursday, the Brewers learned that Cameron, Kendall and Lopez all qualified as Type B players in the Elias Sports Bureau’s ranking system and that Looper and Weathers would also rank as Type Bs should they reach free agency.

That system considers a player’s last two seasons of statistical output and is used to determine which free agents are eligible for Draft compensation. In order to qualify, a free agent must be offered arbitration by his former team, but decline the offer and then sign elsewhere.

The former club of a Type A free agent receives the player’s new team’s first- or second-round pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft, depending on where that team finished in the standings, plus a “sandwich pick” between the first- and second rounds.  The former club of a Type B free agent receives only the sandwich pick.
 
Lopez.jpgLopez was one spot shy of qualifying as a Type A player. National League second baseman, shortstops and third basemen are grouped together by Elias, and Lopez was the first Type B, with a rating of 71.889. Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla was the final Type A, at 72.350.

For more on the Brewers’ free agent-eligibles, see my story on Brewers.com.

Of the players in question, who would you like to see back? Who should the Brewers let go?

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Tidbits: Hoffman, Suppan, Sheets, Hardy

The discussion about whether the Brewers would trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder was the most interesting part of general manager Doug Melvin’s year-end wrap-up with the media, but here’s a taste of the other topics discussed:

- The Brewers officially announced their new deal with closer Trevor Hoffman, who re-signed for one year plus a mutual option for 2011. The contract guarantees $8 million and could pay as much as $16.5 million over two years. 

 “By signing Trevor Hoffman, that was a big splash for us,” Melvin said. “If our pitching is going to improve, we have to keep the success we had at the back end of our bullpen. And also, to attract free agent starting pitchers, one of the first questions they always want to know is, ‘Who is the closer?'” 

- Melvin hinted that the focus on pitching could make it difficult for the team to re-sign its key free agents, including center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall. Rickie Weeks is the second baseman, Melvin reiterated, making it likely that free agent Felipe Lopez will also be let go.

Assistant GM Gord Ash conceded that it’s difficult for teams to win with unproven players up the middle but insisted it can be done. He mentioned Lorenzo Cain and Logan Schafer as the team’s top center field prospects and said Jonathan Lucroy was the team’s top catching prospect. Interestingly, Angel Salome’s name was not brought up.

- Jeff Suppan, the Brewers’ 2009 Opening Day starter, is not guaranteed a spot in the 2010 starting rotation despite his $12.5 million salary. It will be the final season of his four-year contract, and he projects as the team’s highest-paid player for the second straight year. 

“I think Jeff is a professional and he knows that he will come into camp and [compete],” Melvin said. “You have to give him some credit for the fact he’s been given the ball a lot of years. He’s very seldom injured. … I don’t think there will be very many guarantees about who will be in the rotation. We probably have to make it more competitive to get better.” 

- Free agent righty Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery, is still on the Brewers’ radar.

“Ben is somebody who would have to be on anybody’s list when it comes to improving your pitching staff,” Ash said. “We’re not up to date with his physical condition right now since he’s no longer in our care, so that would have to be Step 1. But from our point of view, we enjoyed Ben as part of the Brewers and there’s been, ‘once in a while’ conversations with his agent to remind him that we still have that ongoing interest. It hasn’t been followed-up yet.”

- Melvin already interviewed one potential pitching coach on Monday and was to travel with Ash on Thursday to interview another candidate. He wouldn’t say whether he had already spoken with former A’s and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, an early favorite for the position because of his past working relationships with Brewers manager Ken Macha and bench coach Willie Randolph

“We don’t want to advertise who we’re looking at,” Melvin said. “The cat’s out of the bag on one guy. I interviewed him on Monday and another team interviewed him the next day.” 

- Ash shed more light on the options that faced third baseman Casey McGehee, who underwent successful surgery on Tuesday. McGehee has a lesion in his knee, Ash said, that causes fragments of bone to break away. He could have had a more intensive procedure to inject healthy cells into the knee to promote re-growth but it was a riskier procedure that could have sidelined McGehee weeks or even months into the 2010 season. 

“He elected, after consulting with a couple of surgeons, to have kind of the intermediary procedure done, and that was to take out all of the fragments and hope that area of his knee remains intact,” Ash said. “We don’t have 100 percent guarantee on that. What we do know about Casey is that he’s an excellent worker and he’s motivated.” 

- Melvin did little to dispute the notion that shortstop J.J. Hardy will be traded this winter to make room for Alcides Escobar. Hardy’s value is down both because of his poor 2009 season (he batted .229 and was optioned to the Minors in August) and because the rest of the league knows that the Brewers are ready to install Escobar. 

“It might be down a little bit,” Melvin said of Hardy’s value. “But there are still clubs that have interest in him. Shortstop is a big hole to fill.”

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McGehee to Lopez to Fielder; Triple play!

The Brewers turned a triple play for the first time in more than decade on Sunday, helping starter Braden Looper escape a jam in the top of the sixth inning against the Giants.

Randy Winn and Ryan Garko hit consecutive singles off Looper to start the inning before Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand hit a bouncer to Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee. McGehee stepped on the bag and fired a throw to second baseman Felipe Lopez, who relayed to Prince Fielder at first to end the inning.

It was the fifth triple play in the Brewers’ 40-year history and the first since April 16,1999, when third baseman Jeff Cirillo initiated a similar, 5-4-3 triple play in a home opener at County Stadium against the Cubs. Cirillo-to Fernando Vina-to Sean Berry in the seventh retired Benito Santiago at first.

For San Francisco, it marked the first time a Giants hitter batted into a triple play since J.T. Snow did so on Aug. 5, 1998 against the Mets.

It was the fifth triple play in the Majors this season and the first since Philadelphia’s Eric Bruntlett recorded an unassisted triple-killing to finish an Aug. 23 win over the Mets.

You can see a video of the Brewers’ triple play in MLB.com’s gameday application. 

Escobar moves up to eight-hole

At least for today, when Alcides Escobar imoves up a spot against Zach Duke and the Pirates in the opener of a three-game series. I’m guessing that manager Ken Macha’s decision to bat the pitcher in the more conventional nine-hole has something to do with Jason Bourgeois making the start in right field and batting second.

Second baseman Felipe Lopez, who returned to action Thursday after missing one start with a right foot injury, was walking extremely gingerly around the clubhouse yesterday afternoon, but he’s back in action tonight. And so much for seeing more of Mike Rivera; the backup catcher had been paired with Manny Parra of late, but Jason Kendall is catching tonight.

Here’s the lineup:

Felipe Lopez  2B
Jason Bourgeois  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
Jason Kendall  C
Alcides Escobar  SS
Manny Parra  LHP

Hoffman responds to waiver rumors

Trevor Hoffman would prefer to remain a Brewer, but conceded that Thursday that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could be traded to a contender before the end of the month.

“I don’t know,” Hoffman said. “We’re 12 out.”

As in, the Brewers remained 12 games behind division-leading St. Louis in the National League Central after getting swept by the Reds at Miller Park this week. Cincinnati finished its three-game sweep with an 8-5 win over the Brewers on Thursday, just as FOXSports.com reported that a rival club had claimed Hoffman off the waiver wire.

If true, the Brewers and the mystery team would have 48 hours to work out a trade. If the sides cannot strike an agreement, the Brewers would pull Hoffman back.

Hoffman said he had no idea whether the report was true, and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who is technically barred from discussing waivers, did not return a pair of phone calls on Thursday.

“I’m starting to learn that this is part of it,” said Hoffman, who mostly avoided late-season waiver rumors during his 16-year tenure with the Padres. Players with at least 10 years of service time including five years with their current team have the right to refuse trades, and it was well understood that Hoffman had no desire to leave San Diego.

Now he’s on a one-year contract with the Brewers and faces the prospect of re-entering free agency at season’s end. As the FOXSports.com report suggested, a deal seems unlikely. Hoffman projects as a “Type A” free agent in the mysterious Elias rankings. That means that if the Brewers keep him for the rest of this year, offer him salary arbitration over the winter and then let him sign elsewhere, they would reap two compensatory picks in next year’s First-Year Player Draft before the end of the second round.

Since the claiming club is not likely to offer much in return for five weeks of Hoffman’s services, Melvin could be more inclined to hold out for the Draft picks.

Another hurdle, according to various recent reports that have speculated about Hoffman’s availability, could be baseball’s all-time saves leader’s desire to be a closer. Asked for his stance on Thursday, Hoffman said, “I’m not going to discuss any of that stuff.”

Hoffman pitched a perfect ninth inning in Wednesday’s extra-innings loss to the Reds and has been excellent in his first season away from San Diego in 16 years, posting a 1.85 ERA and 27 saves in 29 chances this year. But he has been gathering dust in the bullpen as the Brewers have fallen out of the pennant race, with only four save opportunities this month and only four appearances over the past two weeks.

“I’m about settling in,” Hoffman said. “I’ve been fortunate to have that comfort level here in Milwaukee from Day 1. Our focus is to try and climb back in this thing. I did say that we’re 12 out, but we have nine [games] left with St. Louis and Chicago is in the mix. We just got our starting rotation back. Hopefully, we can make a run. I’m a consummate optimist, and this is my team.”

Earlier this week, FOXSports.com reported that the Brewers had placed at least six players on waivers, a necessary step before making trades after July 31. Those players, according to the report, were Mike Cameron, Craig Counsell, Hoffman, Jason Kendall, Braden Looper and Felipe Lopez.

Cameron, Kendall, Looper and Lopez all project as “Type B” free agents who would net one compensatory Draft pick. Looper’s contract includes a mutual option for 2010 that the Brewers are likely to exercise. Counsell does not qualify for Draft compensation should he sign elsewhere next year. 

Earlier this week, Melvin expressed an unwillingness to trade away his veterans, even the Brewers have remained 10-12 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central.

“I can’t imagine that a team would give up a good player for one month, unless there is a key injury,” Melvin said Tuesday. “I don’t anticipate anything.”

Lopez out; Gerut leading off

It appears that Felipe Lopez’s visit with Brewers medical staffers today didn’t go well, because he is out of the lineup for Game 2 of a series against Cincinnati at Miller Park. Lopez hurt the arch of his right foot while scoring amid the Brewers’ five-run rally in the ninth inning on Tuesday.

With Lopez unavailable, manager Ken Macha settled on Jody Gerut as his leadoff hitter. Gerut is on a hot streak, hitting .345 (10-for-29) over his last 22 games after beginning his Brewers tenure 4-for-41 (.098).

The full lineups:

CINCINNATI
Drew Stubbs  CF
Paul Janish  SS
Joey Votto  1B
Brandon Phillips  2B
Scott Rolen  3B
Laynce Nix  RF
Wladimir Balentien  LF
Corky Miller  C
Kip Wells  RHP

MILWAUKEE
Jody Gerut  RF
Craig Counsell  2B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
Jason Kendall  C
Alcides Escobar  SS
Braden Looper  RHP

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