Felipe Lopez: The Missing Piece to the 2010 Chicago Cubs Puzzle?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2010

PHOENIX - APRIL 08:  Infielder Felipe Lopez #2 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws over the sliding Brad Hawpe #11 of the Colorado Rockies to complete a double play during the sixth inning of the game at Chase Field on April 8, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Rockies defeated the Diamondbacks 9-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With the Marlon Byrd signing shoring up the center field situation, the biggest weakness in the Cubs lineup, provided Geovanny Soto turns things around, is now at second base.

It seems as though the Cubs are content to open the season with the trio of Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, and Andres Blanco set to man second base, with Baker in position to get the bulk of the playing time. While there are worse options than Baker, there is a better option currently sitting in free agency, and that is Felipe Lopez.

I have long been an advocate of the Cubs acquiring the switch-hitting former All-Star, and when the Nationals put him up on the trading block last season, I hoped the Cubs would jump on him. Instead the Brewers made a move for him, and he hit .320 BA with 3 HR and 32 RBI in 66 just games following the deal.

While I will admit, Lopez is not the same player that hit .291 BA, 23 HR, 85 RBI with the Reds back in 2005, nor is he the guy that stole 44 bases in 2006, he is an upgrade for a team in desperate need of a catalyst atop their order.

While his power and speed numbers have declined, his BA and OBP has improved in each of the last three seasons and his .310 BA and .383 OBP last season marked career highs. His signing would not only improve the second base position, but would have a ripple effect of improvement on the bench.

As it is, the four bench spots will most likely go to Micah Hoffpauir (1B, LF, RF), Koyie Hill (C), Mike Fontenot (2B, 3B), and Andres Blanco (SS). The Cubs would be forced to keep the light hitting Blanco as he is the only one to back-up Theriot at shortstop. With Lopez, the Cubs could use him at short when Theriot needs a rest, and thus move Baker, who is a solid hitter, to the bench.

If they need one more reason to sign him, try this. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that, because they were unable to re-sign Mark Derosa, the Cardinals are "known to have interest" in Lopez.

Last time he was a free agent, he signed with the Diamondbacks for $3.5 million, and it seems to me he could be had for somewhere in the neighborhood of two years, $7 million, since teams have shown little interest, aside from the above mentioned Cardinals.

So, if in fact Jim Hendry is still sitting on some payroll room, I think signing Lopez would be the best way to spend that money.


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