Never Take Friendship Personal


The Jose Lopez argument has started to intensify the last 24 hrs with the arrival of Bill Hall, who some see as a threat (or in some cases an adequate replacement). I see some posters on various sites are either protective of Lopez or want him gone. Don’t miss understand me and send me mail about how much I hate him and that I’m wrong, I do like him and appreciate what he does for the team.

We all do need to realize, however, there are some things that  he needs to address (both offensively and defensively) that either need to be corrected or the position needs to be upgraded (ala Yuniesky Betancourt).

Ronny Cedeno was introduced as a supposed “push” to the middle infielders, and that he was going to bring competitiveness to both Lopez and Betancourt in their positions. This turned out to only be a push for Yuni whom Ronny replaced in June (by push I only mean to the floor and out of the way).

 While yes, Jose is 5th in the AL in home runs by second basemen. The problem you have to take into account is his average “Home Run” distance is really short (381). In fact his average distance on a home run is shorter than the shortest home run that Russell Branyan has hit all year long(393). Of course you can’t compare Branyan to Lopez when it comes to distance. The point i was making is that Lopez home run totals, while maybe not a fluke, aren’t going to be consistently 20+, year in, and year out. His RBIs, while he maybe the team “leader”, is only further proof of how desperately this team needs a hitter, not a reflection of how “good” Lopez is.

A better measurement tool to use is weighted on base average, a better, more accurate depiction of where he rates as a hitter. Using his wOBA (.315%) he sits at the bottom (10 of 12) of the American League. His BB% (3.7%) is currently last among AL second basemen and his BABIP (at only .283) is also sitting third to last in that category. Everyone knows his defensive weakness. I’m not here to argue that, if you don’t know what I’m talking about watch a game in person.

Yes Lopez is on pace to be an 2.0 WAR player. But currently he is at 1.3, and I’m not big in projections. Yes we are only paying 2M$ for a 2War 6-10M$ performance at second base, but he is currently sitting second to last in the American League in WAR total as a second basemen well. Is his value really as high as we want to believe it is?

 Some may say that Placido Polanco (just as a free agent example) isn’t much of an upgrade and wouldn’t be cost effective, in comparison if we pick him up as a free-agent. Another argument is that Bill Hall won’t ever hit like he used too. Others talk about how Lopez isn’t as valuable to other teams as he is to us, making him hard to get any sort of real value from him. I’ve heard a lot of different arguments. Some I agree with some I disagree.

The real question (and most importantly) that people keep missing and look beyond, is can we upgrade the second base position without creating a whole one way or another within the team. Lopez may not be at the top of the list in offense, but you don’t want to put someone in that position that is worse. Also understand he is league average infielder and while there maybe better fielders out there, there are also worse. You have to be careful and prevent a tip in the scale in either direction, because we ultimately, the goal is to improve the position all around.

 With that said, understand that the front office has made statements by the trades of both Franklin Gutierrez and Jack Wilson. That message is simple defense comes first in premium positions. IF and when you talk about the second base position this would be one of those defense first premium positions, and you may have to get used to the idea of our second basemen hitting 10-15 home runs and having a wOBA around 340-360 instead of 310-330 with 20+ HRs.

 We also have to understand that there are limited funds available to acquire an upgrade to any position players. My understanding of the Mariners priority at this time is simply Adrian Beltre and then Russell Branyan, I don’t think either one is above the other; however I don’t expect Beltre to come back. Should Beltre not return, his void would open up some money (approximately 8-12$ MM) to bring in another player. That money COULD be used in a variety of different avenues. 8-12$ could possibly bring in another pitcher someone who could step into that #2 spot, or you could use it to bring in a bat to help protect Franklin Gutierrez in the batting order. Erik Bedard, judging by the over whelming number of offers to Ben (I almost typed McDonald *shudder*) Sheets, looks as if he could be someone that would be easily picked up by offering low money up front and having back-end loaded performance based contract, using the rest of that money to go after another buy low type player. There are a thousand different moves that could be made and we could spend all day speculating.

The bottom line is Jack Z isn’t going to make a move that makes us worse in the long term. Yes we had to sit through Ronny Cedeno but his defense was noticeably better than Yuni and believe it or not he became a key player in the trade that brought us a real upgrade at short (Seriously Jack Z said trade negotiations took as long as it did, because he didn’t want to give up Cedeno and the Pirates wouldn’t do the trade without him). A move at second base may possibly be in the future, but realize there are restrictions on how much we can really do and understand that the team is looking to take a step forward, not backwards. If he believes it’s Polanco, I’ll get behind him, if he says Bill Hall is the new second basemen I’m behind him, if he says Yuniesky… okay, maybe not. You get the picture. We are at a point that this front office has proven itself by making smart moves, piece by piece, trade by trade to make us a better well rounded team. At this point I think they’ve bought themselves some trust.

But, a decision on Lopez is going to made one way or another this off-season. I for one will not be surprised should we enter spring training with a competition for second base between players who name is not Jose (or maybe with all the Latin influence on this team there will be a player competing for second base named Jose).