Jose Lopez’s Option

Dave · November 2, 2010 at 9:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

As we mentioned yesterday, Thursday is the deadline for options in contracts to be exercised, meaning that the Mariners have one more day to make the call on their options for Erik Bedard, Russell Branyan, and Jose Lopez. Expect all three to be declined – Bedard is an absolute lock to have his $8 million option turned down, while Branyan ($5 million) and Lopez ($4.5 million) are just likely.

However, the Branyan and Lopez situations are different. When the Mariners decline Branyan’s option, he’ll become a free agent, and can negotiate with other clubs beginning on Sunday. Lopez, however, has only accrued five years of service time, one short of the minimum needed to reach free agency. If the Mariners decide to buy out the option year on his contract for $250,000, he will be arbitration eligible, meaning that he’ll still be property of the club. Declining his option will not cut him loose.

If the organization just wants to dump him into the free agent pool, they would have to non-tender him, and that deadline is a month away. So, while I expect the team to pay the buyout on Lopez’s deal on Thursday, he’ll still be a Mariner for a month or so while they gauge the trade market for him and decide what to do with their enigmatic infielder. My guess? They’ll find a trade partner and deal him later in the month for something of marginal value.

Even as a 5th year arbitration eligible guy, Lopez won’t be able to command a big raise coming off the worst year of his career. The system works off historic comparables and prior year salary, and Lopez won’t be able to use either to extract a significant paycheck. He’d get some credit for being an everyday player, I’d estimate that he’s looking at a payout in the $3 to $4 million range, and probably on the lower end of that given his poor 2010 season and $2.3 million salary a year ago. He’d get a raise simply for being a full-time player, but not a big one.

That’s why there’s no real reason for the M’s to pick up Lopez’s option. By paying the buyout, they give him a chance for some trade value, as there are going to be teams who see a 27-year-old infielder who is a year removed from hitting 25 home runs as a guy worth risking $3 million on, especially ones with parks more friendly to right-handed hitters. The Mariners won’t find a team willing to give up much for him, but I’d guess that they’ll have a team or two interested in taking him off their hands once they decline his option.

There is one more option, of course – the Mariners could just keep him, hope he gets off to a better start next year, and then try to trade him next summer if Dustin Ackley is ready to take over at second base. For $3 million or so, they won’t free up a ton of money by getting rid of him, and it’s not like they’ll be able to sign a star to replace him. However, I’m a supporter of Initiative E-5 and Proposition 643 – I just don’t have any interest in watching Lopez play for the Mariners anymore. If you’re not sure why, read this.

Dustin Ackley is the future at second base. Chone Figgins was pretty lousy there last year, and has historically been much better defensively at third. I don’t see the point in forcing Figgins to continue to struggle at a position he’s not very good at for a few months, then ask him to switch positions mid-season. If you bring back Lopez, that’s your plan. I think the team is better off spending $3 million on a middle infielder who can share second base with Ackley once he comes up, spell Jack Wilson at shortstop on the days that his (insert body part here) hurts, and allow Figgins to start 2011 back at third base where he belongs.

I think the team feels the same way, and I doubt we see Lopez on the roster next year. But when they turn down his option on Thursday, they won’t be cutting him loose. That won’t happen for another few weeks.


13 Responses to “Jose Lopez’s Option”

  1. IwearMsHats on November 2nd, 2010 10:08 pm

    This may be way off, but I’m pretty interested in what angle the Mariner’s Annual will take.

  2. Liam on November 2nd, 2010 10:32 pm

    Let me be the first to sign the petition to prohibit Mike Salk from doing his female voice impersonation.

  3. Seattleken on November 2nd, 2010 10:34 pm

    I agree with Dave they will decline the option, and try to trade Lopez. I think they may get some decent offers for him, as he’s not as bad as he was last year. I think a team my well give up a useful player for him like a solid lefty for the pen or a prospect ranked 6-10th in their system.

    However if the M’s don’t get a decent offer I think they will offer him arbitration as they will hope he plays like 2009 not 2010. I just can’t see a team as bad as the M’s giving him away.

  4. Jordan on November 2nd, 2010 10:36 pm

    Let me be the first to thank the Royals for taking him off our hands and giving us anything of value back somewhere along the lines of the Yuni trade. Personally, I’m surprised we can even get a bag of balls and some Big League chew back but whatever.

  5. Duncan Idaho on November 2nd, 2010 11:21 pm

    After the Brandon Inge extension I wouldn’t be so confident on Lopez arbitration payout. His team could submit 3 mil and Jose could submit 5 mil and the resulting award would be close to a coinflip. With that inherent risk I see Lopez as an absolute non tender if not traded.

    Also, we continue to see this assumption of Ackley waiting until summer for a callup. This assumption is based on avoiding a super two arbitration status after 2013, for his 2014 salary. This assumption is baseless. Ackley, by virtue of his original contract, will earn 1.5 million in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The Mariners will not, I repeat as an absolute certainty, will not manipulate Ackley’s service time to give him a drastic pay cut in 2014 (A paycut that could be as much as 60-65%). Doing so would almost insure Ackley going to arbitration during his last three years as a Mariner and likely leaving at his first opportunity. Ackley will be called up to play second base, full time, sometime during the second half of April. Bank on it.

  6. Naliamegod on November 2nd, 2010 11:30 pm

    Doing so would almost insure Ackley going to arbitration during his last three years as a Mariner and likely leaving at his first opportunity

    Or they would just give him another contract to avoid arbitration and (maybe) a couple years of his FA time.

  7. Duncan Idaho on November 2nd, 2010 11:33 pm

    Which he wouldn’t sign after being screwed out of possibly as much as 2-3 million during 2014, Naliamegod.

    Believe me a Boras client will not take an insult like a 60% cut in pay lying down. If the Mariners mess with Ackley’s service time he will never sign an extension with the exception of the first two years of arbitration. That is the Boras blueprint, do some research and you will see many of his clients following it. Most recently Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder.

  8. Westside guy on November 2nd, 2010 11:37 pm

    After the past few years of watching Baby Steps, on really not that picky. Just plug a guy in there who’s OBP is on the correct side of .300 and I’ll be happy.

  9. Dave on November 2nd, 2010 11:38 pm

    Free agent contracts aren’t eligible to be used as comparisons in arbitration cases, so the Inge extension is irrelevant.

    Also, you’re completely wrong about Ackley’s contract. He got $6 million in a signing bonus, which is spread out over five annual payments of $1.2 million each. Then, his salaries from 2010 to 2014 are determined by if he’s on the big league roster or not, ranging anywhere from $600,000 next year to $1.5 million in 2013. As soon as he becomes eligible for arbitration, he can void the salaries laid out by the original contract and go through the arb process like any other player, which is exactly what he’ll do.

    He’s no different than any other prospect in terms of service time and arbitration. The only thing his contract did was put him on the 40 man roster to start his career and specify higher than league minimum payouts in his pre-arb years.

    Next time, if you’re going to act like you know what you’re talking about, try to actually know what you’re talking about.

  10. edclayton on November 3rd, 2010 5:01 am

    I saw that Jhonny Peralta had his option declined by the Tigers yesterday. Could he be an affordable option to play 2B until Ackley is ready, then serve as Wilson’s backup/replacement? Does he still have the tools to play SS or 2B?

  11. huskies2010 on November 3rd, 2010 6:29 am

    I was at the game that inspired the “DFA Jose Lopez” post. Good times.

    I especially enjoyed Jeff’s tweet after: “Jose Lopez’s favorite flavor of Pop-Tart is box.”

  12. eponymous coward on November 3rd, 2010 10:49 am

    Ackley will be called up to play second base, full time, sometime during the second half of April. Bank on it.

    I don’t buy this. How is 2 weeks in April playing in AAA substantively different in evaluating someone’s ability to contribute in MLB than evaluating during spring training?

    Either he blows away the competition and makes the roster, or he’s down in Tacoma for a while. I don’t see being called up that fast.

  13. the tourist on November 3rd, 2010 2:58 pm

    I would bet Ackley will be called up sometime in mid-May unless he falls off a cliff.

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