Today, the Phillies traded relief pitcher Aquilino Lopez to the Padres for two single-A position players, Matt Thayer and Trey Johnston. Lopez was a longshot for the Phils' bullpen this year, so this trade isn't going to re-shape the major league roster. But, it's quite curious for a number of reasons.
First, except for a horrendous 2004, Lopez has been a pretty good relief pitcher who for some reason just can't hold down a job with any one team. Is it body odor? A bad clubhouse presence? Inappropriate comments about the GM's mother? Who knows, because it sure isn't his on-field performance that causes the movement.
On the field, Lopez has been a pretty valuable asset. From 2003-2005, for the Blue Jays, Rockies, and Phillies, Lopez had a 3.72 ERA in 111+ relief innings. That decent ERA includes his atrocious 2004 when he had a 6.00 ERA in 21 innings. Last year, Lopez had 16+ innings of 2.20 ERA with 11.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. For his career, he's averaged 8.0 strikeouts per 9. That's a valuable pitcher.
Lopez's value extends back into his minor league numbers as well. In 8 years for 5 different organizations (the above three plus the Mariners and Dodgers), Lopez had a 3.25 ERA in 526 innings with a 9.6 strikeout per 9 innings rate.
His one downside is a high walk rate that has plagued him in the majors - 4.37 walks per 9 innings. He wasn't nearly as bad in the minors though - 2.55 per 9 innings - showing he can possibly control the strikezone better.
So, on talent alone, this seems like the kind of cheap arm that the Phillies need in the bullpen. There doesn't seem to be a logical reason not to have thrown his arm into the mix to see if it would have stuck.
Second, the move is also curious because of the type of trade Pat Gillick made. This is not what we've become accustomed to here in Philly. Under the Wade regime, we grew accustomed to acquiring veteran middle relievers. Here, Gillick has traded a middle reliever for two prospects, something Wade never would have done. Bolstering the minor league system, even with longshot hitters, is a good thing.
Third, it appears that maybe the underlying reason for this move is that Gillick is cleaning the roster of Ed Wade's players. Gillick has quickly gotten rid of or let go Wade pickups Matt Kata, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome, Billy Wagner, Endy Chavez, Todd Pratt, Vicente Padilla, Ugueth Urbina, Ramon Martinez, Michael Tucker, and now Aquilino Lopez. He traded Wade minor-league signing Jason Michaels. And, if rumors are to be believed, he's shopped David Bell, Bobby Abreu, Tomas Perez, and maybe Pat Burrell.
It's becoming quite clear that Gillick wants his own guys on this team. The problem is, looking at the players he's picked up, I'm very worried about who those guys are.