Cards formalize deal with infielder Lopez

Cards formalize deal with infielder Lopez

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals have signed free-agent infielder Felipe Lopez to a one-year deal, the club announced, and he was scheduled to work out with the club on Saturday morning.

The switch-hitter was decked out in Cardinals workout gear before the deal was announced, with a No. 8 uniform hanging in the clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium. Lopez is listed on the team's workout schedule, and he is slated to take live batting practice among other things.

"I didn't want to keep wasting time at my house when I could be here," said Lopez, who also spent the last two months of the 2008 season with the Cardinals. "I've wanted to be here for a long time. I've made a lot of changes, and it's going great so far."

St. Louis maintained interest in the versatile switch-hitting Lopez for much of the winter, but waited him out as the offseason ground on. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lopez's base salary will be less than $2 million, plus performance incentives.

"I knew who I wanted to play for," he said. "This has been my first choice since I played here back in '08. It's a great organization. I'm glad to be here. They treated me like always, with open arms. It's just positive around here."

"We are excited to have Felipe back in a Cardinals uniform," said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak in the club's release. "As a switch-hitter who can play multiple positions, he gives us tremendous versatility. We feel he's going to be a great addition to our club."

A veteran of nine Major League seasons, Lopez can play several positions. He spent the vast majority of his time at second base in 2009, but more than half of his career appearances have come at shortstop. Lopez has also played third base, outfield and even made one appearance at first base.

That versatility, plus his switch-hitting ability, made Lopez a very appealing fit for the Cardinals. St. Louis has several needs, nearly all of which Lopez can help fill. He offers insurance at shortstop in case Brendan Ryan's recovery from wrist surgery progresses slowly, and at third base in case David Freese doesn't emerge as hoped or Joe Mather is not healthy. He potentially provides outfield depth for a team with only three experienced Major League outfielders.

But most of all, he adds left-handed depth to a team that is extremely heavy on right-handed hitters. Lopez has very little split between the two sides of the plate over his career. Against right-handed pitchers, he joins Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus in hitting from the left side.

"I go to every team not expecting anything," Lopez said. "I think if you perform well and you do good, you cannot be ignored. So I'm coming here just working hard and doing what I do."

Lopez, will turn 30 in May. He signed with St. Louis in August 2008 after he was released by Washington, and took advantage of that opportunity to rejuvenate his career. He hit .385 and slugged .538 in 43 games as a Cardinal. Lopez split the 2009 season between Arizona and Milwaukee, hitting .310 with a .383 on-base percentage and a .427 slugging percentage in 151 games.

His tenure in Washington was not especially successful, but since leaving the Nationals, Lopez has been a force. In 181 games (760 plate appearances) since his release, Lopez has batted .325 with a .392 OBP and a .450 slugging percentage. He has scored 118 runs in that span.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.