Red Sox make big catch, acquire Orioles' Lopez

Updated: August 6, 2006, 3:00 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BALTIMORE -- Javy Lopez was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to Boston on Friday, a deal that gives the former All-Star another chance to play and provides the Red Sox a replacement for injured catcher Jason Varitek.

Karabell's fantasy take
While Red Sox fans see little downside on the low-cost acquisition of Javy Lopez to replace the injured Jason Varitek, fantasy baseball owners are well aware of Lopez's limited value. With eight home runs and 31 RBI, Lopez isn't exactly in demand, and moving up the coast from Baltimore to Boston doesn't change things much.

Lopez was the No. 4 catcher selected in ESPN mixed drafts, just outside the top 100 overall, but you won't find him producing near that value. He's currently ranked 22nd among catchers, behind future Hall of Famers Josh Bard, Gerald Laird and Dave Ross. Name value has helped Lopez get to be owned in 25 percent of mixed leagues, a generous figure considering his best month this season included three home runs and nine RBI, and he's hitting .194 since the All-Star break.

While his playing time should increase a bit, note that Lopez was hitting 61 points higher in Baltimore this season than on the road, and over the last three seasons at Fenway Park he's batted just .246. Is he an upgrade offensively over Doug Mirabelli? Hard to argue he's not, but that doesn't make Lopez an attractive fantasy option, not at age 35.

Stick with lesser names like Russ Martin, Eliezer Alfonzo, Mike Napoli and Miguel Olivo, the latter being owned in a mere 2 percent of leagues despite better stats than Lopez across the board.
-- Eric Karabell

The Orioles sent Lopez and $1.3 million to the Red Sox for a player to be named.

ESPN's Duke Castiglione reported Friday that the player to be named is Red Sox outfielder Adam Stern.

However, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays may place a waiver claim on Stern, effectively blocking him from going to Baltimore this season. If a claim is made, the Orioles would get Stern after the season.

Varitek had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday and was expected to immediately begin rehabilitation. The Red Sox have not indicated when their captain might return and were delighted to get Lopez as a replacement.

"He's an experienced catcher. I know he hasn't caught much [this season], but he has caught for a long time," Boston manager Terry Francona said in Tampa Bay, where the Red Sox played the Devil Rays. "He's caught some pretty good pitchers in the past."

Lopez pinch-hit for Doug Mirabelli in the third inning of Friday night's game against Tampa Bay and struck out swinging. Mirabelli limped off the field in the first after he tagged out a sliding Carl Crawford trying to score on Greg Norton's infield single. He returned to the plate in the second, but Lopez stayed in to catch in the third.

The Red Sox lead the wild-card race and are competing with the New York Yankees for the AL East title. The Orioles are out of contention and didn't have much need for Lopez because Ramon Hernandez is their starting catcher and Jay Gibbons is the designated hitter.

"It was one of the reasons why I was pretty frustrated with the Orioles, with the fact that they signed Hernandez and I knew from the beginning of the season that I wasn't going to catch," Lopez said in the Boston clubhouse. "Especially my last year of the contract, you really want to catch the most and do the best you can behind the plate."

Francona said he would give Lopez the night off and then put him behind the plate Saturday.

"Let him take [batting practice] and get a little acclimated," the manager said.

Lopez hoped to be dealt before the non-waiver trade deadline Monday. He then passed through waivers before being traded to Boston.

"This is perfect for him: He gets to play with a team battling for first place and at Fenway Park, which has all that history," said Lopez's agent, Chuck Berry. "It should be a great ballpark for him to hit in, too."

As far as Lopez was concerned, anything but Baltimore would do.

"There were things that they promised me or told me I was going to do, and none of the things they told me happened," Lopez said, complaining that the Orioles told him he would play first base but killed the experiment in spring training.

He also said the Orioles promised to negotiate an extension of his contract but never did so.

At 35, Lopez is in the final season of a $22.5 million, three-year contract he signed as a free agent with the Orioles in December 2003. He got that deal after hitting .328 with 43 home runs and 109 RBI for Atlanta, his third All-Star season for the Braves.

Lopez is hitting .265 with eight home runs and 31 RBI in 279 at-bats. He has caught in only 21 of the Orioles' 109 games as a backup to Hernandez.

"This is the opportunity that I've pretty much was looking for this year. It is a good feeling. It's exciting," Lopez said. "This is something that I can get back on track. I haven't been in the playoffs for so long and I'm trying to get back."

The Orioles, meanwhile, were happy to get someone in return for a disgruntled backup.

"We think it was a good baseball trade," Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said. "At the end of the day, we feel good about it."

Lopez will share time behind the plate with Mirabelli, who heartily approved the acquisition.

"It's a major pickup for us -- a guy who has played in some meaningful games in his career," Mirabelli said. "Pressure is not something that going's to get to him. I've heard nothing but good things -- a soft-spoken guy who is good in the clubhouse."

The Orioles signed free-agent catcher Chris Widger to replace Lopez on the roster. Widger began the season with the Chicago White Sox and batted .184 with one home run and seven RBI in 27 games before being released Tuesday.

He has played parts of 10 seasons in the majors, batting .239 with 55 homers and 220 RBI in 604 games. Getting Widger made it easy for Baltimore to ship Lopez.

"It was a baseball decision," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said before the Orioles faced the New York Yankees. "[Lopez] was going to have diminished playing time, and we were able to get another player back and Chris Widger."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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