ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 30: Infielder Felipe Lopez #45 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the game at Tropicana Field on April 30, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
In rather unsurprising news, Felipe Lopez has been designated for assignment to make room on the Rays' 25-man roster for Evan Longoria. This means that Lopez will need to go through waivers, where any team can pick him up, before he can being assigned to a minor league roster. Lopez can also choose to refuse the assignment and become a free agent.
Ignore all the people talking about Lopez's "attitude" as the reason for this move: while that may have influenced the decision to a small degree, Lopez was also the logical choice to get cut judging by performance and the Rays' needs. He was originally signed as insurance in case someone got hurt, with the chance that maybe he'd flash a bat like he did in 2009 (.359 wOBA). While he had a great first week with the Rays, since then he's been in a giant slump and his total season line is .222/.263/.347, good for a .263 wOBA.
Yeah, it's a small sample, but it's not like Lopez's projections expect great things for him going forward either (.295 projected wOBA). Lopez hasn't been good with the bat, his defense has been pretty bad, and his skillset limits his flexibility off the bench. If it was a choice between Elliot Johnson and Dan Johnson, then Lopez was the one that should have gone. Even though neither Elliot and DanJo are lighting the world on fire with their bats, they're still projected to be as good (or better) than Lopez at the plate while providing better defense (although how much better we can debate).
The most curious part of this whole transaction saga (Jake McGee down, Alex Cobb up then down, Brandon Gomes up, and now Felipe Lopez down) is that the Rays were willing to bite the bullet and potentially lose some of their depth. Lopez likely won't clear waivers without being claimed, and if that's the case, the Rays are losing one of their preseason backup plans. Normally the Rays cling to players like crazy and don't like to part with depth, so either they really don't like Lopez's bat, they think he'll clear through waivers, or they felt their bullpen was too worn out to go with a 6-man bullpen.