2019 stats: 3.41 ERA, 70 games, 60.2 IP, 5.03 FIP, 131 ERA+, 0.6 WAR
2019 salary: $556,900
2020 status: Pre-Arb 2 (League Minimum)
The cost to sign Yoan Lopez as an amateur free agent cost more than money, but even that cost was outrageous. The D-backs signed him to a then-record $8.26 million bonus, far exceeding their total amount allowed at $2.36 million, and incurring a 100% penalty tax on the overage, on top of not being able to sign any one player to a contract worth more than $300,000 for the next two seasons. To put it lightly, it was a disaster and that was before Lopez put on a uniform.
Lopez struggled adjusting to a new environment, and honestly, life. He left his team twice in the middle of the season, and struggled as a starter so badly that most everyone had written him off as a bust. But, to his credit, Lopez returned and was a difference maker in the bullpen. He did not shy away from his disappearances, facing them head on.
My leaving the team on separate occasions had to do with lack of maturity, he says. “A lot of young people out on their own for the first time go through this.
He progressed quickly through the system in his new role and reached the MLB in 2018 when rosters expanding, finishing out the year with 9 straight scoreless appearances.
Going into 2019, Lopez was slotted in as the 8th inning and was superb starting out, with a 1st half ERA of 1.59 in 40 games. When Greg Holland was released, while Lovullo was hesitant to name a replacement, he did mention Lopez as a possibility to step into that role, among others. He saved his first career game on July 24th, coming in with the tying run at home and retiring the Orioles in order, needing only 4 pitches to do so.
But Lopez struggled to end the year, allowing 8 of his 11 homers in the 2nd half en route to a 6.04 ERA and a 1-6 record. The good news is nothing sticks out as a glaring issue for why he pitched so poorly to end the year. His velocity stayed right around 95mph on the fastball, and was better at limiting walks. He did allow more inherited runners to score, and struggled to miss bats, with an 8% swinging strike percentage vs 12% over the first half of the year.
Lopez will continue to be in a set-up role in 2020, with the first chance at save opportunities should Archie Bradley struggle. That is of course if they don’t make any sweeping changes to the bullpen, which I don’t suspect will happen. Although who knows, maybe Mike Hazen decides to buck his recent frugal bullpen trend and splurge on a closer. Weirder things have happened.