Could Be the Best Free Agent Signing of the Off-Season

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2010

The Cardinals have reportedly reach agreement with 2Bman Felipe Lopez on a one-year contract that guarantees him somewhere between $1.75 and 2 million, plus performance incentives.  In terms of what the Cards are paying and what they’re getting, it could be the best free agent signing of the off-season.

Three weeks ago the Twins signed Orlando Hudson for one year at $5 million.  The deal made sense for the Twins, and I can see why the Twins preferred Hudson to Lopez: Hudson is a more proven commodity and has experience playing in the American League.

However, Lopez is two years younger than Hudson and had a better year on both sides of the ball than Hudson did in 2009.  If Hudson was worth $5 million to the Twins (and he is), then Lopez should be worth at least $4.5 million to the Cardinals, particularly when you consider how well he played for the Cards in the last two months of 2008 (.964 OPS).

That’s not the way the market works, however.  Once the Twins chose Hudson, the Cardinals were the only team that would pony up as much as $2 million for Lopez, so that’s what Lopez had to accept.

Skip Schumaker, the Cardinals primary 2Bman in 2009, actually hit pretty well.  Fangraphs didn’t like his defense, although his raw numbers don’t look that bad.  Most likely, after the losses of Mark DeRosa and Rick Ankiel, Schumaker, who can play a lot of positions, will get significant playing time at third and/or centerfield.

Brendan Ryan had a fine year on both sides of the ball as the Cards’ primary shortstop last season.  The only real knock on him is that 2009 was his first season as a major league regular, and he was already 27 years old.  Players who have their first year as a major league regular at age 27, particularly if they are not catchers or hard-throwing pitchers, don’t tend to have long careers.

Given Schumaker’s ability to play other positions, I don’t see how signing Lopez can fail to help the Cardinals in 2010.  As the reigning NL Central Division champs, and having resigned Matt Holliday, they have to be the odds-on favorite to repeat in 2010.