Buy Lo': Why the Twins Should Pursue Jose Lopez
The hometown nine has a lot of work to do and decisions to make this offseason. With so many holes to fill, minor moves can make a difference, especially low-risk, high-reward moves that can make way for a bigger splash later. One such move: try to acquire young, disappointing infielder Jose Lopez from the Mariners. Here are five reasons this ought to happen.
1. The Twins can likely get Lopez for cheap. His stock with the M's had soured even before last year's disastrous season. Former manager Mike Hargrove tried to shoehorn Lopez into being a banjo hitter instead of letting the powerful young player swing away. The Mariners and their fans are fed up with Lopez, and not for no reason: he was brutal last year. Some years you're the windshield, some years you're the bug, and last year Lopez went splat.
But that brings us to the second reason this is a good idea.
2. At his worst, Jose Lopez is a better, cheaper player than Nick Punto. Lopez' salary is a paltry $500,000, a third what Punto makes. He also turns 24 this month (Punto turned 30 on Thursday), and most hitters peak in their late 20s. Even if he never gets better, he fills a hole and/or upgrades a position.
3. The Twins primary need is hitting. The Twins' primary commodity is cheap, quality young pitching ... which, coincidentally, is the Mariners' primary hole to fill. Ordinarily, I'm loath to float imaginary trades, since there are many factors in play we aren't privy to. But when one team is desperately seeking arms, and another team can afford to part with a mid-level prospect or decent innings eater, you've got to call a match a match.
4. The move would give the Twins roster flexibility. Lopez is cheap and under club control for another three years. The Twins need another infielder, and ideally two to push Punto to the bench. Adding an inexpensive player with some upside is a key first step. If it works out, great; if it doesn't, the team moves one with minimal investment lost. Plus, adding a cheap player enables bigger, splashier moves later.
5. A change of scenery could do Lopez good. He would move from Safeco Field, a crippling park for a right-handed hitter, to the Dome. Safeco is one of the best parks for pitchers in baseball, and it's likely that Lopez could take great strides based on his age and a shift to a hitter-friendly environment.
The argument against this move is that Lopez was awful last year, and there are flaws in his approach -- he's not nearly a patient enough hitter, for example. When you're dealing from strength and can make a low-risk move, though, this is not much of an argument against acquiring him.
Or at least for testing the waters. Make a call to Seattle GM Bill Bavasi, and see if Lopez can be had for someone like Nick Blackburn. If you can find a match, make the move, and check one item off the list.
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