July 2, 2010

Trade Possibilities: Javier Lopez

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / July 2, 2010

In today's Trade Possibilities I present the one player who I think is most likely to be traded before the July 31 deadline, the veteran lefthanded reliever Javier Lopez.

Why Trade Javier Lopez?
Lopez is a needless luxury for this team. He's pitched quite well, with a 2.76 ERA in 36 games, 29 innings. He's pitched equally well against lefthanded and righthanded hitters and shown the ability to pitch two and three days in a row with no ill effects.

Lopez was brought in on a one year, $775,000 contract after a disaster of a 2009, when he was injured or ineffective throughout the year. In Pittsburgh he's shown that he's the same pitcher who was a valuable member of Boston's 2006-08 bullpens. Lopez is worth more to a playoff contender than he is to the last place Pirates, and any team can easily pay his low salary. I have no doubt that somebody will give up a prospect or two for him. This site supports the efficient market hypothesis.

What would the Pirates get?
One solid prospect or two marginal ones. The Pirates have needs for a starting right fielder and shortstop in 2011, but Lopez won't be enough to get either. With young players blocking the other positions, the Pirates would settle for a high minors pitching prospect.

Who Would Want Lopez?
Lopez's 9.26 ERA 2009 might be too fresh in the Red Sox' minds to make a move for him again, even though the Sox haven't deployed an effective lefty reliever all year. Literally every other contending team is a possibility, though the American League has more of a dearth of lefthanded relievers. Here are the best fits:

1. The Los Angeles Angels have no lefthanders in their bullpen other than closer Brian Fuentes. It is not the Angels' style to make a big splash at the trade deadline, but they specialize in these low-level back end moves. Mike Scioscia is fine with having only one lefty reliever, but I doubt he prefers to have zero.

2. The Detroit Tigers bullpen is in disarray after the ugly injury to setup man Joel Zumaya. Lefty Phil Coke is likely forced to a setup role, leaving an opening for Lopez as a sixth/seventh inning lefty. The Tigers appear likely to take their division race down to wire again against the Twins and would love to have an effective lefty to face Minnesota's big lefthanded bats, Morneau, Thome and Mauer, during the two team's six September games.

3. The New York Yankees took Damaso Marte off the Pirates' hands in a similar deal at the 2008 deadline and could use another lefty arm. It's hard to imagine the Yankees going into the playoffs with Marte (6.9 BB/9) this year and Boone Logan (5.9 BB/9) as their lefthanded relievers.

The Verdict
Trade him. Lopez is gone at the end of the season. He's unlikely to resign, and truthfully wouldn't have come here in the first place if not for the need to prove himself after 2009. Yet that 2009 will prevent Lopez from being worth a compensatory draft pic, so there's no reason not to cash him in on a prospect and wish him luck in the playoffs.

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