The Felipe Dilemma

Wednesday, November 13 2002 @ 05:53 AM EST

Contributed by: Jordan

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.