Flipping Lopez for a comp pick

The Boston Red Sox shrewdly saw a compensation draft pick in a player the St. Louis Cardinals simply wanted to be rid of.

Felipe Lopez' grand slam Friday (AP/Jeff Roberson)As readers may know, Tuesday was the deadline for Major League clubs to offer arbitration to veteran players who were Type A or Type B free agents. Despite the St. Louis Cardinals having nine free agents, not a single one of them qualified for compensation if they sign elsewhere.

The one ex-Cardinals player that would have generated a compensation pick was infielder Felipe Lopez, a Type B free agent. However, he was released in September, which means the Cardinals lost any rights to compensation for him.

Some wondered why Boston re-signed Lopez with a few weeks remaining in the season and the Sox out of the playoff hunt. My suspicions seemed to be confirmed when the Sox offered Lopez arbitration on Tuesday. Players have until November 30 to accept or decline these offers.

Interestingly, Lopez turned down the club that reportedly first showed interest in him, San Diego, despite them being in the thick of both the National League West Division hunt and the NL Wild Card race. It is unclear why he chose Boston instead, but the Red Sox had good reason to pursue him.

I can’t help but wonder if a Lopez’ decision to decline arbitration was pre-determined as a condition for Boston having brought him in.

As a free agent, the well-traveled Lopez is still just as signable whether he was offered arbitration or not. The compensation pick for Type B’s is an extra one, not taken away from the signing team as with Type A’s.

In return for giving Lopez a few weeks more in the majors at minimum cost to them and perhaps a brief opportunity for the player to repair his tarnished image a bit, Boston looks to have made a very smart move. If Lopez declines, they will receive an extra pick in the 2011 draft between the first and second rounds.

To help put this into perspective, the Cardinals had two of these Type B compensation picks in the 2010 draft, collected from the losses of Mark DeRosa and Joel Pineiro last winter. They were used to select pitchers Seth Blair and Tyrell Jenkins in June.

In releasing Lopez, St. Louis forfeited its chance to secure that same compensation selection Boston may soon possess, their only opportunity for an extra pick in the 2011 draft. Given the acrimonious deterioration in their relationship with Lopez, the Cardinals may have wanted to avoid offering him at all costs in fear he might actually demonstrate interest in returning.

Score one for the Red Sox and their GM Theo Epstein – unless they get saddled with Lopez for 2011, that is.

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