Phillies Close to Aquiring Reliever Wilton Lopez from Astros

Update: The deal has not been finalized yet, despite reports.

twitter.com/JonHeymanCBS/status/273820997558366210

twitter.com/JonHeymanCBS/status/273821328354717696

Lopez was one of those mentioned in my “Guys Hardly Anyone Talks About” column from September. The right-hander turns 29 in April and is arbitration-eligible through 2015, meaning that the Phillies will have a quality reliever for at least three seasons. He earned just over $515,000 last season.

In 66.1 innings last year Lopez struck out 54 and walked only eight, good for a (K-BB)/PA of 18 percent. Among free agent relievers, only two have a better mark than Lopez in that regard: Jason Grilli at 28 percent and Sean Burnett at 19 percent. Aside from his incredible control, Lopez induces a lot of ground balls. His 55 percent ground ball rate ranked 16th-highest out of 88 relievers who threw at least 60 innings in 2012. The league average for relievers is 45 percent.

In three full seasons, Lopez has shown durability and reliability, accruing at least 66 innings and a sub-3.00 ERA in each year. His SIERA ranged from 2.53 (last year) to 3.03 (2011) indicating that Lopez’s success has not been fluky and that he certainly belongs in the conversation among baseball’s elite relievers.

Lopez will set up for Jonathan Papelbon and could easily slot in the closer’s role in the event of an injury or just the odd day off. Having been previously linked to Texas Rangers reliever Koji Uehara, the Phillies address their desire for a quality set-up arm and can now focus on getting a center fielder. Behind Papelbon and Lopez, the Phillies will likely rely on many of the young arms that we saw so often last season.

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31 comments

  1. LTG

    November 28, 2012 11:17 AM

    You are too quick for me. I was just about to ask what you thought of Wilton Lopez. Instead, I get immediate satisfaction. How could you do that to me!?

  2. LTG

    November 28, 2012 11:19 AM

    Kidding aside, any chance they still go after Uehara? And, any chance they traded some of that young bullpen talent for Lopez?

  3. Chesty

    November 28, 2012 11:24 AM

    It’s got to be one of those catchers (Valle, Joseph Rupp, Lino) going back, right? If it’s a legitimate prospect going back, I would have rather them just sign someone.

  4. Phillie697

    November 28, 2012 11:26 AM

    Fantastic deal. Normally I would ask what we gave up, until I remembered we ain’t got anything to give up that I would gripe over.

    @LTG,

    I’m willing to bet money, lots of money, that one of our young bullpen arms is part of this deal. I’m just hoping it’s not Aumont, although even if it is, I’m not going to occupy RAJ or anything.

  5. Phillie697

    November 28, 2012 11:28 AM

    @Chesty,

    This is a 29 year old quality pitcher who costs peanuts AND is under team control for 3 years… I rather have him than give $5M+ to someone, even if it costs us a decent prospect; don’t kid yourself, we ain’t got any prospects that project to be an All-Star.

  6. Dan K.

    November 28, 2012 11:39 AM

    @697,

    Joseph, Biddle, Martin, maybe May could all easily be All-Stars some day. Not to mention the guys that are a lot further away like Quinn. I would gripe about giving up them. If it’s Valle, I’m alright with that. A back-up C for a RP seems like a fair-ish swap.

  7. AntsinIN

    November 28, 2012 11:39 AM

    Nice, *nice* trade here Ruben, so long as Dom isn’t the prospect going back. Lopez/Paps 8/9 is a really good closing bookend to games. If Halladay/Cole/Cliff can make it 7 innings, the Phils have a real good shot.

    Now about that offense….

  8. Matt

    November 28, 2012 11:51 AM

    Isn’t this trade an indictment of Ruben’s ability to scout talent? Specifically, lopez is really only needed because Ruben failed to realize that Josh Lindbolm wouldn’t be the answer. Lindbolm was acquired in lieu of supplementing the farm in order to bring in a young setup man. Lindbolm’s era in LA (3.02) was out of line with his statistical performance (4.34 xFIP) – Lindbolm performed much closer to his actual skill level after the trade (4.63 ERA, 4.79 xFIP). It seems like this trade is ruben spending more resources trying to fix a problem he already tried unsuccessfully to fix with a player he was fooled by in a limited sample in LA.

  9. nik

    November 28, 2012 11:51 AM

    Phillie697 likes a RAJ move. Hell has frozen over :)

  10. LTG

    November 28, 2012 11:52 AM

    I’d gripe over De Fratus and Aumont going to Houston. I’d hand-wring if Aumont went and De Fratus stayed because Aumont has devastating stuff when he isn’t wild, but I wouldn’t gripe. We need at least one of those guys in the 7th and in case of injuries. I don’t like solving a problem by creating another.

  11. LTG

    November 28, 2012 11:54 AM

    Matt, you seem to be recasting that trade. The trade was to move Victorino. I’m guessing the Astros weren’t interested. For all we know, Lindblom was the best RAJ could get for Vic. The experiment did not work out so well, but it was worth a try.

  12. kevin

    November 28, 2012 11:54 AM

    I could see Valle going. Joseph is here to be our catcher of the future.

  13. Tony

    November 28, 2012 11:54 AM

    I don’t think anyone thought Lindblom was the answer, just the best we could get for Shane given that we weren’t going to be able to keep Shane around.

  14. nik

    November 28, 2012 11:58 AM

    Matt, what are you talking about? Lindblom was a throw-in. The real piece in the 2 month rental of Shane was Ethan Martin.

  15. Matt

    November 28, 2012 12:02 PM

    sorry, the point wasnt that victorino could have gotten lopez, far from. The point was that vic could have fetched some other far masset, but was use to fill a role which Ruben is trying again to fill here. That trade may work out in the end because Martin alone may be a positive return, but taking lindbolm really looks like a wasted opportunity in light of this trade to fill the role Josh couldnt.

  16. JM

    November 28, 2012 12:02 PM

    with all the deals we do with the astros, it is hard to believe that they have not been able to put together a quality team. are there any other 2 teams that seem to swap players as much as the Phillies and Astros do?

  17. iHATEshwimer

    November 28, 2012 12:18 PM

    Valle and Schwimer would rock :)

  18. AntsinIN

    November 28, 2012 12:22 PM

    JM they basically started out with scratch. It takes time to build a system. The Astros have a decent system now and tons of financial flexibility. By 2014 I’d expect them to at least flirt with .500.

  19. Phillie697

    November 28, 2012 01:08 PM

    @nik,

    I’m all about giving credit, or the lack thereof, when credit is due. This is a good deal. So far this off-season RAJ hasn’t done anything to blow up about, yet… Just wait until we give B.J. Upton 5/$90M.

    @LTG,

    I don’t think its Lindblom. The tweet said minor leaguers, and Lindblom isn’t a minor leaguer.

    @Dan K.,

    All-Star starters usually are #1 or #2 pitchers in a rotation, our own pitching staff notwithstanding, and none of our minor league guys project to be #1 or #2. Trust me, there isn’t any prospect we have I would fret over for a quality and cheap major league talent. Now, if we gave up multiple players, then maybe… And I don’t think it’s any of our intriguing low-level prospects, since the tweet said near-ML ready.

  20. John

    November 28, 2012 01:22 PM

    Depending on what we give up, which I doubt is much, no body should be griping at all. The need to upgrade the bullpen is just as important, if not more, than getting an elite CF or OF. And it was addressed, thank you RAJ, hope this one pans out/stays healthy, etc.

    @ Matt, the only reason RAJ took Lindblom in that deal is because Lindblom made only 483K (which we only paid what, half of?) and because he needed a body. In business, sometimes you get what you can get and the most controllable stat is your labor which has the largest impact on your bottom line. That was the trade he could get to save him whatever remained on Victorino’s 9.5 million and really, to give you perspective there were 9 pitchers on the roster with higher ERA’s and 3 of those pitchers had at least as many IP as Lindblom. My point being, that trade had more to do about running a profitable than anything else, which is what he had to do when the CBP stopped selling out every game. And RAJ doesn’t actually scout talent, scouts scout talent, RAJ reads their reports and makes informed decisions based off their observations, in case you didn’t know.

  21. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    November 28, 2012 01:33 PM

    Before everyone starts applauding, let’s wait and here who the prospects are. I don’t think the Astros would do a deal for an established, cheap ML reliever that was centered around an unestablished similarly cheap minor league reliever, like Aumont or DeFratus. More likely a catcher like Valle and a starter. My guess as far as the main piece would be Jonathan Pettibone. He has the lowest ceiling of the top prospect pitchers, but he’s the closest the majors. I could just as easily see it being May, Martin or Morgan, though. We’re going to have to pay something for those three years of control.

  22. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    November 28, 2012 01:35 PM

    Ugh, wait and “hear” obviously.

  23. Phillie697

    November 28, 2012 02:17 PM

    @ACA,

    I would do a Lopez for Pettibone deal. Mediocre K rate, and his BB rate ballooned in AAA. Another Brandon Duckworth if you ask me.

  24. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    November 28, 2012 02:36 PM

    Yeah, Pettibone and Valle is kind of my hope. My fear is something more like Martin or Morgan and Valle.

  25. joecatz

    November 28, 2012 03:08 PM

    Am I the only one who thinks the timing of this deal (two days before non tenders) might make Schierholtz a likely guy to go too?

  26. Phillie697

    November 28, 2012 06:40 PM

    “Free-agent outfielder B.J. Upton has agreed to a five-year deal worth $75.25 million with the Atlanta Braves, pending a physical, a baseball source told ESPN.”

    … which means RAJ did NOT give Upton 5/$90M. Does this mean RAJ learned from the Howard and Papelbon contracts, or does it just mean we’re gonna sign Bourn to 5/$100M?

  27. mac

    November 28, 2012 06:46 PM

    thank god the braves got rid of BJ upton for us.

    id rather take my chances with a friendly deal for Victorino if he’s willing.

    id rather take my chances on Hamilton’s potential disintegrating body, at least you know he has the capability to produce (of course whether or not that continues remains to be seen) unlike Upton who’s getting 15 mil for batting .240 and striking out 150+ times a year.

    but the big win would be Pagan. Guy can play center, work a count, and hits for average, he can help this team.

    just don’t tell me we’re paying Michael Bourn 17 million a year.

  28. LTG

    November 28, 2012 07:01 PM

    Victorino > Pagan

    better B%, K%, avg ISO, UZR, BsR

    Pagan tends to have higher BABIPs but is also more BABIP-dependent for his value.

    The main difference is that Vic had a down (at least for him) year last year, while Pagan had a down year two years ago and had a rebound last year.

    Vic is only 1 year older and might have lost power to a hand injury that has healed. Pagan is not developing any more power and his D has graded out average or below-average two years running.

  29. Pat

    November 28, 2012 07:06 PM

    Pagan is already a below average CF. There’s a good chance in a year or two he’s needs to move to LF.

  30. mac

    November 28, 2012 07:13 PM

    @LTG fair enough

    I wouldnt mind Vic back at a good price, either one works for me.

    @Pat just curious, your choice is….?

  31. Phillie697

    November 28, 2012 07:17 PM

    RAJ, if you’re reading this, keep on waiting :) See Rollins, Jimmy & Madson, Ryan.

    Hell, now that Bourn has a “floor” to work with, wouldn’t surprise me if his agent milk it for all its worth. If Bourn takes another month or so before signing, we might get to sign Vic for bargain basement prices… WAIT SOME MORE RAJ!!!

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