Numerous media sources reported on Friday evening that the St. Louis Cardinals and free agent infielder Felipe Lopez have come to terms on a one-year contract. The deal is reportedly worth $1 million plus $1.2 million additional in incentives ($200K at 350, 400, 450, 500, 550 and 600 plate appearances) and will not be finalized until the completion of a physical examination.
Update: On Saturday morning, the Cardinals officially confirmed the signing. Lopez will be wearing uniform number 8, vacated by Troy Glaus, now with Atlanta.
The 29-year-old returns to St. Louis, where he batted .385 in 43 late-season games after having been released by Washington in 2008. After becoming a free agent again following the season, the switch-hitter split his 2009 season between Arizona and Milwaukee, posting a .310/.383/.427 line.
Apparently dissatisfied with remaining unsigned as other players reported to camp, Lopez fired agent Scott Boras last week and instead hired the Beverly Hills Sports Council to represent him. That organization also serves as the agent of Albert Pujols among others.
Lopez and the Cardinals seemed a likely match for weeks, but the club demonstrated a significant lack of interest, at least publicly, until news of the surprise deal began to leak out on Friday.
Lopez offers the Cardinals value in several important areas. He provides veteran presence off the bench as well as being a switch-hitter who is proficient from both sides. Lopez can serve as a left-handed pinch-hitter on a club that is right-handed heavy or provide a right-handed platoon option with Skip Schumaker at second base.
Primarily a second baseman defensively, Lopez played six positions in his earlier stint in St. Louis. He didn’t pitch, catch or play in centerfield while wearing the Cardinals uniform in 2008, but now he apparently will have a chance to do that, too.
Lopez could also offer a proven veteran alternative at third base if rookie David Freese falters or become the club’s fourth outfielder, a position with no veteran reserves as of yet. With Lopez' addition, the Cardinals' 40-man roster grows to 39.
The career line of the native Puerto Rican is .269/.338/.400 in 1024 major league games over nine seasons. Lopez has made stops with Toronto (2001-02), Cincinnati (2003-2006), Washington
(2006-2008), St. Louis (2008), Arizona (2009) and Milwaukee (2009). He was named to the National League All-Star team in 2005 and played for Jose Oquendo and the Puerto Rican team in last year’s World Baseball Classic.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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