As amazing as it seems now, Javy Lopez just wasn't able to maintain his offensive production from his walk year in 2003. It doesn't seem clear why he stopped his ability to cream the ball, as he clearly creamed balls of a cream-like color clear over the wall, and his signing was a big and clear disappointment. Plus, signing a catcher in their mid-30s always seems to work out. Now, after two sub par seasons, Lopez is hoping to leave Baltimore.
First instinct: Run. Run far away.
Second instinct: It ain't my money, and I wouldn't be upset at having him, but there had better not be anyone of value going back to the Orioles. He hasn't been much better than Lance Niekro this year. Lopez's contract ends after this season, which is a positive when it comes to acquiring him. Javy for Joe Bateman? Sure, that's a Joe Carter gamble worth taking. Anything more? No way.
Lopez would seem to be in the same category as Sean Casey and Shea Hillenbrand as far as the first base acquisitions go. That would be the Museum Admission Group, where a modest donation is politely requested but not required. Seriously, not one of their teams should be expecting more than a courtesy prospect in return, and it would offend my sense of justice and worldly balance if they did expect more. They're all expensive, and their teams obviously have more use for a younger player than to pay millions until the veteran's walk year. The Hillenbrand situation is a little different, but now that he's been D'dFA the Blue Jays will have to settle for whatever they can get for him.
Hillenbrand is intriguing because he could spell Pedro Feliz occasionally, and is frustrating because he's what we hoped Niekro could have been. It wasn't greedy to hope for that. Hillenbrand's offense is underrated because he doesn't draw many walks, but he is still nothing more than a below-average first baseman. Casey is the one pure first baseman -- coming without any questions of dodgy glovework -- and is probably the most reliable hitter of the bunch. That's reliable hitter in the 2003 J.T. Snow sense, before you get too excited.
Lopez plays first only sporadically these days, so it'd be hard to imagine him fielding at anything close to an acceptable level. His offense has dropped enough to be poor for a catcher, much less a first baseman. He ... isn't really worth writing about.
Of the Museum Admission Group, my preferences:
- Sean Casey
- Shea Hillenbrand
- Shane Andrews
- Craig Paquette
- Ray Jablonski
- Jeff Ball
- Javy Lopez
The perfect solution would be Ryan Shealy, but only if the Rockies could be convinced to center the deal around Brad Hennessey or Kevin Correia. Jonathan Sanchez wouldn't be untouchable, but there are enough question marks about Shealy to make me reluctant to toss Sanchez in any deal.
Pro: Youngish, comfortably far away from arbitration, and he's hit at every level of baseball he has played.
Con: He's older than the typical prospect, and the stats he's put up have all come in hitter's parks.
The Ugly: Randy Johnson
The Rockies will eventually need to deal Shealy, as he's sandwiched between Todd Helton and Joe Koshansky, but probably wouldn't give him to a division rival without expecting a lucrative haul back in return. A paragraph ago, I was reluctant to deal Sanchez for him. Now I would do the deal with little regret. By the next paragraph, I'll be willing to use myself as a human shield to prevent Sanchez from going to another team. It seems the Giants have a chance for a semblance of pitching depth for the next couple of years, but filling lineup spot with cheap talent will be much tougher to do. But I love watching Sanchez pitch, and salivate over his potential in a rotation. But a young first baseman that can help right away is exactly what the team should be looking for. But....
I just hope that a series win that came against a below-average team, and was only made possible through a fluke hop and a pitcher sticking his glove out on instinct, isn't going to make the front office decide the Giants were just upgraded from "buyers" to "super-buyers". It was a thrilling win, don't get me wrong. But the smart move is still to get Casey or Hillenbrand for beer nuts, or to stand pat if the teams in question ask for too much.