Frank Wren Signs Rodrigo Lopez…Again – Why?

I really didn’t think he would do it. It was just too silly for words really; the idea we would sign a pitcher – even to a minor league contract – with worse numbers than Kenshin Kawakami. Yet Ed Price of AOL FanHouse (Twitter link) reports that Braves announced that they signed Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. As I said two days ago when Lopez said he was considering such an offer, there is just no good reason to add another failed arm to the system.

For those who missed Saturday’s post, Lopez threw 200 innings for the Diamondbacks last year, finishing with 5.00 ERA giving up 227 hits, 37 homers and 111 earned runs. He’s a fly ball pitcher who has allowed a little over a home run every game since he’s been in the big leagues so it’s no surprise his ERAs since 2005 were horrible (4.90, 5.90, 4.42, 5.70 and 5.00).

He had TJ surgery in 07 and missed part of 09 with a shoulder problem. Last year he led the league in home runs allowed -37- and runs allowed -111 – the second time in his career he’s done that (in 2006 he allowed 124). Wren obviously sees something in Lopez he likes, this is the second time he’s signed him. In August 08 Lopez played for the Braves rookie league team and at Rome. He appeared in only 3 games throwing 5 innings with an ERA of 16.20. The Braves didn’t like him enough to resign him then so why now? Since their records and pitches are so alike, Kenshin Kawakami must be shaking his head in disbelief. Yep KK, me too.

Apparently Roger McDowell thinks he can fix George Sherrill by raising his arm slot. Sherrill told Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Carroll Rogers. “I must have gotten away from it last year and couldn’t figure out where the arm slot was supposed to be. Hopefully we can get back to that this year.” Here’s hoping Roger is right.

Instead of pitching – where we are strongest – we should be looking for another bench player. Word is that Chipper Jones’ left knee is still not 100 percent. He told‘s Guy Curtright. That he can “. . . run straight ahead, but it still feels like my left leg is five pounds heavier than my right.” He will wear a sleeve for support during workouts and games this season but the knee will need more rest than I -for one- had hoped meaning Martin will play more third than we hoped and someone – probably Mather – will play more left. This makes our already suspect outfield even weaker. Aside from Heyward, we have no one we can say now will play at a major league level next year. With outfield free agents as scarce as rain in West Texas finding a dependable outfielder now is unlikely absent a trade. Another option to consider is an infielder who can play third base; someone like Pedro Feliz.

While Feliz is not much of a bat – probably now a 240 or so hitter if he played every day – he is a very good fielding 3rd baseman will run into a fastball now and then and drive in a run or two. He would provide cover at third in addition to Brooks Conrad who has not proven to be very dependable fielder. Feliz hasn’t had a good offer yet and would more than likely take the same minor league contract and invite we gave Lopez. While we’re giving people a chance let’s give a proven major leaguer one, let’s see what Pedro Feliz can do.



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Tags: Billy Wagner Braves Brooks Conrad Frank Wren Kenshin Kawakami Rodrigo Lopez Roger McDowell

  • Bob Horton

    Hi Fred,

    Greetings from the soon to be snowed-in Northland!

    I hear what you’re saying on Lopez, but I just can’t get that worked up over it. The way I see it, he’s an innings eater; he did throw 200 innings last year. Most organizations like to have innings eaters in the minors to avoid too much wear and tear on young arms. I see Lopez filling that role, and maybe being a backstop for emergencies. Nothing lost if he can’t cut it.

    I’m actually more interested in your Chipper info. I read the Bradley piece on the rehab, including the quotes you cited, but by my reading everything you described was said to be normal and Chipper actually thought he was on track on the rehab. Did you pick up the info about him needing more rest somewhere else? Inquiring minds and all!


  • Fred Owens

    I see it as another bad Frank Wren decision. KK throws as many innings as Lopez, give up less runs, less home runs and with some run support could have had a 500 record. He’s already on the books and we’re paying him a fortune. On top of that we have pitching depth. There are as I said Saturday, 7 guys waiting for 5 jobs; all of them better than Lopez. Wren focused on things we don;t need instead of things we do; like an outfielder who can play center field or left field and hit about 230 when playing every day.

    Chipper’s news worries me because of his age; the more they say this is expected the more I think if he was 28 it would be fine. The more he says he has trouble right handed the less of a threat he is to pitchers leaving us still a bat short. I’ve got bad knees too and while I was never in Chipper’s shape I was never asked to put that strain on it every day for 6 months three hours a day. If the foundation isn’t string there’s no power; remember Troy Glaus? It’s only an opinion and I HOPE I am wrong.

    Speaking of dear old Troy, I see he put his family in front of all offers. Would it be too cynical of me to think those offers were from the Ham Fighters or the Toledo Mudhens?
    Goodnight Bob :-)

  • Bo

    Call me cynical, but I’m under the impression that FW is trying to hoard 5th starters to dry up the market, all in an effort to move Kawakami. I wouldn’t be surprised if we dealt Kawakami and one of Beachy/Lopez at some point this year.

    • Fred Owens

      So we add a pitcher to make pitchers scarce and pay him even though we don’t need him in the hope that packaging to has been pitchers with one prospect will allow us to make a trade? A trade that will result is us eating most of KKs salary as well.
      Boy, I’m glad you’re not my financial adviser.

  • BC Clemmons

    In any signing, scouts and other members of the organization are used.I think its a tad shortsighted to blame one person, if things go south.I guess we could give Wren some credit for tooling a team together that did win the wildcard and if properly managed(on field) could have won the division.

    • Bob Horton

      Hi Bo and BC! Welcome to TomahawkTake and thanks for commenting!

      It certainly does seem like the Braves have a ton of guys that seem to be number four or five starter material. Interesting angle on KK.

      I think it’s important in this discussion to remember that KK is, in effect, a sunk cost unless he can be traded. And he’s obviously being paid way more than you’d want to pay a number five starter. And to Fred’s point, IMO he’s a much better pitcher than Lopez and probably as good or better than most of our options for the five slot in the rotation, at least at this point in their careers (though others have higher long-term potential). But he’s too expensive for the current budget. My guess is that if he could be traded, the dollars freed up would be spent on the areas Fred highlighted. But it’s the fact that he is a better pitcher that at least gives him trade value, and that value will likely increase as spring training progresses and other teams need pitching.

      I also agree that it takes a full front office team to make things happen. I do have two thoughts on that, though: The first is that Wren is the “team captain”, so to speak, and he ultimately is the one held accountable for success or failure. The second thought is that the Braves have lost a lot of management talent in the past few years, especially in recruiting and player development. I’ve been cautiously optimistic with the new team, especially on the international front, but the jury’s still out, IMO.

      Sorry for the long-winded response. I guess this could have been a post LOL!


  • NickB

    Another bad FW signing? WTF are you talking about? Lopez won’t get a whiff of the big team unless we have a catastrophic injury parade in the rotation…. He won’t make diddley, he only gets a pro-rated $900,000 for every game he’s on the 25 man roster… Hence the reason he’s more valuable to the club then KK. KK makes $6.5 mill or wtvr…. The worst case scenario is 2 starters go out and Lopez has to pitch say 6-10 games next season. (shudder) he would probably only end up costing the big teams payroll about $300,000…. Big difference when the deadline comes around and every available cent counts. We don’t have the Yankees payroll you know!

    Did I.Q’s drop and no one noticed the part about this that said “MINOR LEAGUE CONTRACT WITH NON ROSTER INVITE TO SPRING TRAINING” ? That hardly sounds like Lopez is going to be a major part of the Braves plans for 2011….. People will squawk about anything.

    Let’s take a REASONABLE look at the starting depth:


    Now, IF he pitches well enough in ST to land a spot in AAA and IF we lost Minor and say JJ at the same time. and IF it was early enough in the season that they don’t wanna give the youngsters a shot THEN PERHAPS Lopez might get a 2 week stretch on the big club. I honestly think he’s cut and/or traded in the midst of Dark Star…..

    • Fred Owens

      Your arguments make my point.
      “Lopez won’t get a whiff of the big team unless we have a catastrophic injury parade in the rotation….”
      We certainly hope so. In that event WHY SIGN HIM?

      “he only gets a pro-rated $900,000 for every game he’s on the 25 man roster… Hence the reason he’s more valuable to the club then KK. KK makes $6.5 mill. . .”
      We will pay KKs money anyway, no one is going to take all of KK’s salary since in any move. So, how does adding a prorated any dollar amount save us money? Why Sign Him?

      “Did I.Q’s drop and no one noticed the part about this that said “MINOR LEAGUE CONTRACT WITH NON ROSTER INVITE TO SPRING TRAINING” ? That hardly sounds like Lopez is going to be a major part of the Braves plans for 2011″

      Again, if he is no part of any plan and if he costs us anything at all and he is worse than the the alternative we have to pay anyway even if we don’t use him, WHY sign him?
      Thanks for making my point

  • Matthew

    I agree with this, mostly, as KK is certainly not going to be part of the organization at the end of spring training unless something odd happens. Even if the Braves can only get 25% of his salary covered in a trade and had to use Lopez the entire season, they would save money. As it is, one of the young arms (or a combination) will hold down the 5th spot, KK will be traded and Lopez will never see Turner Field this year unless he is released and comes back with the Pirates.

    Everything Lopez did last year wasn’t terrible either, so getting him on the cheap, with likely very little effort, seems like a no lose proposition. In the last 3 months of the season, he lasted at least 5 innings in every game and went 6 or more innings in 14 out of 16 starts. Thus the label inning eater.

    There is also a good possibility that, even at age 35, Lopez could be improved. In his career, he is simply horrific in his first 30 pitches of a game. After that, he settles down and pitches fairly well to great with his lowest ERA after 105 pitches. This points to a defect in mental preparation or in the warm up procedure he has followed in his career. Perhaps John Smoltz can introduce him to Jack Llewellyn?

    To further give some reasonable thought to the mental preparation issue, Lopez has posted his best career ERA’s in the first and the last month of the season. His 4.47 ERA in September is only bettered by his 4.32 ERA in April. It appears when Lopez is geared up and ready to go and when he is winding down and pressing to finish the year, he is at his best.

    Looking a little deeper, Lopez has yielded 2 home runs in 20 innings in his career at Turner Field, so perhaps he is a good match for the ballpark though a larger sample size would be nice.

    Because of his horrid performance in his first 30 pitches historically, I sincerely hope he doesn’t land a spot in long relief.

  • Fred Owens

    My my we are struggling to find something good aren’t we? The point which I seem to have badly presented is that there were pitchers still on the market at the time he was signed with better numbers who signed the same contract. There were pitchers with the same numbers but better stuff who signed or will sign the same contract. I disagree that Lopez can be changed after this time. He started in 1995 with the Padres organization. In his 16th professional year it’s unlikely he will change what he does.
    So.. wrong emphasis at signing
    If we are signing a pitcher sign a better one
    Otherwise a waste of $$$$
    Hopefully everyone is correct and ALL we waste is the money…