Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Aquilino Lopez Traded

The Phillies have traded 31-year old relief pitcher Aquilino Lopez to the San Diego Padres; in return, the Phils receive two minor league players - OF Matt Thayer and 3B/C Trey Johnston.

Matt Thayer was a 31st round pick of the Padres in 2004 who is coming off a season that included stops in rookie ball, low-A, and high-A. He has hit .314/.406/.420 in 388 professional at bats, but because he was a college draft pick (he went to UCLA) that was 22-years old when selected, he has consistently been older than his competition. In other words, his numbers aren't as impressive as they appear and he'll have some catching up to do if he ever wants to reach "prospect" status. The Phils will probably start him at Clearwater, but he should advance to AA Reading quickly with a good start. He is 24-years old already and his future is probably as an organizational player that will need a string of good breaks to ever see the big leagues.

Trey Johnston appears to be the key to the deal from the Phillies perspective - not so much for anything he has done, but because of his youth and intriguing positionally combination. I've done my best to dig up a little something on Johnston outside of his Baseball Cube stat line, but I've come up relatively empty. He is an Independence Day baby (born July 4, 1985), played third base (primarily) for his high school team in Schaumburg, Illinois, and was originally an 18th round draft pick (523rd overall) of the Chicago Cubs. Johnston is listed by the Cube as a third baseman, but I've also seen websites listing him as a catcher - I can only assume he has played both in his career thus far. He won't turn 21 until July, so he definitely has youth on his side...the Phillies will more than likely begin him at Lakewood.

The loss of Aquilino Lopez is more complicated than it may appear at first glance…but that just may be because of my obsessive nature when it comes to the Phils (I mean how complicated could Aquilino Lopez be?). There haven't been too many veteran players to come through Philadelphia that perplexed me as much as Lopez did - this is especially strange when you consider the fact that Lopez only pitched 12.2 innings wearing the red pinstripes. Lopez always tantalized with great stuff and high strikeout rates, but for as much promise as he has shown, he has never delivered. Facts are facts - Lopez is now a 31-year old relief pitcher who only has 111.1 big league innings under his belt. The Padres will be Lopez’ sixth team as a pro…for whatever reason he has never been able to stick in any one place.

I think Lopez can still find a niche somewhere and contribute to a major league bullpen; as much as I wanted to see it happen for him in Philly, I can’t say that I’m too broken up about him leaving. With the way the roster is currently constituted, Lopez was set to pitch in Scranton while waiting for a chance at the big league roster. He would have made excellent insurance in case one of the older relievers (Tom Gordon, Arthur Rhodes, Rheal Cormier) were to get injured and is one of the only players in the organization that has “closer stuff” – important since there is no real backup plan in case Gordon goes down. Even still, getting two young players (love the approach of accumulating quantity in the lower minors by the way) for a player who may or may not help this season and definitely didn’t appear to fit into the organization’s long term vision is a damn good return. I’ll always wonder in the back of my mind what could have been with Lopez and the Phillies, but he isn’t the kind of player that will haunt you down the road.


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