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A brief article in the Toronto Sun the other day suggested that one-time shortstop of the future Felipe Lopez may be on his way out of town, presumably as part of a deal for starting pitching. Assuming that a trade would bring back a reliable #2 or #3 starter, I'd be interested in people's views on the subject of dealing away F-Lo.

It would be a controversial move. Lopez has no shortage of physical tools, and scouts project him as an impact middle-infielder with speed and power, an obviously rare commodity. On the other hand, he's never displayed much in the way of plate discipline, looked very bad in his ML debut this year, and could very easily be just a tools goof who'll never manage to transform his abilities into on-field skills. In many respects, Lopez is a test case for the Ricciardi regime, which very clearly favours proven baseball skills over unfinished physical tools. Is this the right approach, or does it overvalue the former and undervalue the latter?

While debating Lopez's potential and actual performance ceilings would make an interesting academic exercise, I think that in the context of the team's real needs, trading him for pitching makes good sense. His trade value should still be very high for teams that value five-tool prospects, and his performance in Syracuse following his demotion was impressive. Packaging Lopez and, say, Escobar or Cruz should get the immediate attention of a number of teams. Toronto has numerous promising middle-infield prospects on the way, including Russ Adams, Michael Rouse and Dominic Rich. Chris Woodward should be able to hold the fort till they arrive in a couple of years. And hey, worst-case scenario, Rey Sanchez is still looking for work. Toronto needs a good young starter now more than it needs another good young infielder in two years' time.

While Lopez may or may not become a star, there's no "maybe" about this team's dire need for pitching. Under the circumstances, and if the return value is there, a trade seems like the right choice.
The Felipe Dilemma | 9 comments | Create New Account
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Coach - Wednesday, November 13 2002 @ 06:47 PM EST (#102309) #
If J.P. connects with a team that still has Lopez rated highly, and can get either a young pitcher with a high upside or an established veteran, he should do it.

It seems like every trade in MLB is as much about a financial "fit" as it is to do with talent. Lopez is young and inexpensive, making him most attractive to a budget-conscious club; a contender would be interested in him only as a backup or for AAA insurance. If the Jays are willing to add salary, there are plenty of 30-something pitchers who the frugal teams might like to unload. The trick is to avoid the Joey Hamiltons and get someone useful.

If Ricciardi refuses to take on payroll in a Lopez deal, he'll need to get his trading partner to accept an OF, presumably Cruz, for a similarly-priced arm. Otherwise, in anything resembling a straight swap, he'll be lucky to get a promising AA starter. Dewon Brazelton from Tampa would be nice, but I'd settle for Paul Wilson.

Re your question about whether favouring performance over "tools" is the right approach, I think the new Jays consider one other variable, namely personality. If, as I and others have speculated, Felipe's character, attitude and work ethic are disappointing, he's as good as gone, for someone who shares the team's values.
_Justin - Thursday, November 14 2002 @ 12:44 AM EST (#102310) #
Hi guys, been reading the site for a while, love the content. One thing that's crossed my mind about Lopez is his age and his nationality. First, he's still extremely young and a lot of players (anecdotally, at least) "get it" towards their late 20's. Second, latin players seem to demonstrate really poor plate discipline early on in their careers and go on to show a lot of improvement over time. My only concern is giving up on him too early, with a guy this talented it could be a huge loss. Given the current placement of the Jays' middle-infield prospects, they have to be considered just as much of a risk as Lopez, since they haven't proven anything at advanced levels yet. At the same time, I don't know if they possess as much "upside" either.
_dp - Thursday, November 14 2002 @ 10:04 AM EST (#102311) #
Dealing Lopez would be foolish, unless it an overwhelming deal. 30 HR shortstops don't go one trees, and it is important to keep in mind that Lopez was rushed and toyed around with because of the Jays' lack of depth.

I have a feeling Chris Woodward sucks this year. His numbers in 2002 were really based on only a couple of good months, and I'd rather see him flipped than Felipe. F-Lo drew a ton of walks at AAA this year, and I'd rather see if he learned anything translatable at Syracuse before they got rid of him.
Coach - Thursday, November 14 2002 @ 11:51 AM EST (#102312) #
Jordan, you were obviously correct in calling a potential Lopez trade "controversial," judging by the above comments. Justin's preaching patience, dp thinks it would be a foolish move. Presumably, a larger sampling of Jays fans will be similarly divided.

In my ESPN column this year, I ripped the Jays for their handling of such a talented young player. (dp: "Rushed and toyed around with" is right on.) Carlos Tosca made a few ill-advised public second-guesses of Lopez -- remember when he was going home to gun down a runner, only to find Tom Wilson had abandoned the plate? Trying to alter that throw-in-progress to 1B resulted in a ball in the dirt at his feet, an embarrassing "E-6" which was endlessly replayed. And his manager ripped him, not the missing catcher, who actually suffered the brain cramp. Felipe's demotion was "punishment" for being immature; perhaps he ignored Brian Butterfield's coaching, maybe the "party animal" rumours are true. But I said at the time, and still believe, it was a hasty move that could only undermine the kid's shaky confidence.

(Tangent alert: Tosca also blamed Jose Cruz -- in the media -- for "playing too shallow" on a double over his head in RF, causing me to wonder who is ultimately responsible for positioning the Jays' outfielders. On any other team, it's the manager. "Sorry, I messed up," is the supportive response; criticizing players for other people's mistakes, especially yours, is not my idea of leadership. And now, we return to our point.)

Right or wrong, foolish or wise, it appears the team is close to giving up on Lopez, if they haven't already. And if the environment isn't supportive of a few inevitable mistakes, he won't thrive in Toronto. If they are patient with him, and he doesn't develop into his Tejada-esque promise, he'll have zero trade value; right now, it may be possible to get another club to pay for that potential. I'm with dp, and I hope J.P. is too -- it's just that we may differ in what we consider an "overwhelming" deal.
_Richard - Thursday, November 14 2002 @ 01:43 PM EST (#102313) #
Initially I was all for swapping Lopez for a blue-chip pitching commodity.I began to have some trepidation after studying the 2002 baseball primer top 40 prospect list.(I wish I knew how to post a link?)

Of the 14 hurlers on this list,7 suffered injury this past season.Some were minor,Josh Beckett shut down with blisters,some major,Ryan Anderson's shoulder injuries.

The dilema: can you give up a top everyday potential impact player for a pitcher given the extreme liklehood that player could suffer signifigant injury? (see Sirotka/Prokopec)

Perhaps it may be wiser to move a player with less of a ceiling (i.e. Hudson,Cruz),for a prospect who's been tarnished a bit like Justin Miller.Given J.P.'s concern for managing risk this may be an option.

At any rate this is an extremely tough call.
_Jordan - Thursday, November 14 2002 @ 02:49 PM EST (#102314) #
Richard, here's the Baseball Primer article. BTW, to create links, I use the coding at Webmonkey, which is a nice one-stop gallery of HTML codes. There, I've just communicated everything I know about HTML coding. :-)

Pitching prospects are fragile entities, as this organization has learned to its regret the last few seasons. I wouldn't favour dealing Lopez for a prospect so much as for a youngish, mid-20s pitcher with some track record behind him, if such creatures are available from willing teams. I tend to doubt Ricciardi would give up a scout's dream like Lopez unless he got solid, reliable value in return. For the sheer fun of it, let's play the Groundless Speculation Game:

- I could see Lopez as a good fit for Florida, which is running short of patience with the other Alex Gonzalez, packaged (maybe along with Cruz) for Brad Penny or AJ Burnett (I won't even let myself think about Josh Beckett).
- Adam Everett's not hitting in Houston, so maybe Lopez could be dealt(again along with Cruz, who'd be a local sentimental favourite) to the Astros for someone like Wade Miller.
- Or, more creatively, what about the Yankees? Ventura's got probably one more good year left in him, and Drew Henson's not the answer. Lopez could play third, or Jeter could possibly shift there, where his skill set is better suited. In return, how about Jeff Weaver?

These are the kinds of guys it would be nice to see coming back -- young veterans, if you like -- in return for Lopez and other assorted paraphernalia. Whether these kinds of deals are available in the real world is another matter altogether, but it's fun to think about. Looking forward to the Winter Meetings.
Coach - Thursday, November 14 2002 @ 10:33 PM EST (#102315) #
Richard, you put HTML tags inside angle brackets -- < at the beginning and > at the end -- so type [A HREF=""] before some text, and [/A] after it, using angle brackets, not square ones, and whatever is between the tags will be highlighted as a link to the specified URL, in this example. I'm a novice myself, but managed to create this site, so anyone can do it.

Jordan's right, the Groundless Speculation Game is fun. The Marlins are the perfect team to approach with a promising, cheap SS in exchange for a more expensive arm. They let Dempster and Clement go last year, and their irresponsible management (I want to use more libelous adjectives, but we'll let the federal courts rule on their integrity) is ripe for plucking. I loved the 2001 Penny, but he was a hurtin' puppy last year, and Burnett has been, as we used to say on the racetrack, "rode hard and put away wet" -- lots of 120+ pitch counts. If the medical reports are OK, either would be excellent value for a kid whose potential may never be fulfilled. Florida would also love to dump their relatively expensive 2B for a bargain prospect like the O-Dog, so if they do something like Lopez and Hudson for Burnett and Castillo, I would lead the cheers.

Another lesson learned in the horse business: you start with lots of talented two-year-olds. Some develop bad knees, some have ankle problems, some have speed but no stamina, some don't have "heart," or the desire to compete. If you're lucky, from a crop of a dozen well-bred, well-trained potential stars, you get one very good racehorse and a few who pay their way. The others weren't mistakes, it's just a game of attrition. Exactly like pitching.

Not even the ghost of Branch Rickey (the Mahatma knew about attrition, he invented the farm system) can predict with certainty how any one prospect will develop, and even a Kevin Brown can abruptly become an expensive burden. I admire the Ricciardi regime for making lots of moves with a good chance of success, and shrugging off the ones that don't pay dividends, in order to reap the benefits from the moves that work out. It's harder to make great deals for pitchers than hitters, because the demand exceeds the supply, so I'm always in favour of trading a "probable" bat for a "possible" arm. Make that swap enough times, and the law of averages becomes your ally.

Despite the recent glowing review of the Jays' 2002 draft class in Baseball America (it's on the subsciption part of their site so I can't link there) it would be foolish to rely entirely on the farm system to develop big league pitchers. They are doing a fine job trolling the free agent waters, and I'm confident that when the right trade opportunity presents itself, J.P. and his advisors will recognize it. This isn't Mondesi, when you celebrate his departure, welcome Josh Phelps and the trade return is irrelevant. Saying goodbye to Lopez (and/or the O-Dog) won't be easy for us fans, but if it nets a solid starter, this one won't complain.
_dp - Friday, November 15 2002 @ 10:42 AM EST (#102316) #
The problem I have with dumping Lopez at this point is that you aren't giving him a chance to show if his improvement at AAA was translatable or not.

This is the line he posted:
#Lopez, Felipe,SS .318 43 173 35 55 11 2 3 16 29 37 13 0 .457 .419 16

(Sorry if this wraps funny). The important numbers, as I see them, are the 29 BB in 173 AB, which lead to a .419 OB%. He struck out way too much (37) and again made too many errors (16), but he scored almost a run a game, was 13-0 in SB/CS, and showed decent power. For such a young guy in only his 2nd half-season at AAA, that's pretty damn good. The best way to evaluate Lopez, IMO, is to throw out his ML numbers to this point, since it seems he was clearly not ready when he was called up, and the initial promotion included a position switch, followed by this year's madness with Raul. If you just throw out F-Lo's ML experience, it seems unwise to consider dealing someone with so much potential before seeing if a) Chris Wodward can translate a 150 AB hot streak into sustained ML success, and b) if O-Dog, who has posted inferior numbers to F-Lo despite being older at every level, can hit in the major leagues. There is no reason to turn an area of strength into an area of weakness until you know for sure if how much of a strength it is. Worst case is that Woodward has been figured out and Hudson become Marlon Anderson; if the Jays have Lopez to fill one of those holes, their better off. If Dave Berg plays 150 games in the middle infield, they'll be in trouble...
_Richard - Friday, November 15 2002 @ 11:44 AM EST (#102317) #
Thanks guys for the info on posting links, I'll have to experiment.

I still worry about trading elite everyday talent for the uncertainty of pitching,but I guess sometimes to be good you have to push the envelope.
The Felipe Dilemma | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.