The White Sox have expressed interest in acquiring the infielder from the Royals. nicky lopezreports Ken Rosenthal of Athletic (Twitter link). There is no indication that the discussions have gained steam, as Rosenthal notes that Kansas City is not eager to trade the Creighton product.
Lopez, March 28, has spent his entire career with the Royals. He made it to the majors in 2019, hitting .240/.276/.325 in 103 games as a rookie. He put in an equally tough offensive performance during his second season, but earned elite grades for his work at second base. Lopez’s +9 defensive runs saved during the shortened season tied for the league lead at the position, earning him another look in 2021.
The left-handed hitter seemed to have stepped up offensively that season, at least on the surface. He posted a .300/.365/.378 line in 565 plate appearances, with that offense posting a hair above league average. That required a lofty .347 batting average on balls in play that never seemed likely for him to maintain, and his batted-ball metrics weren’t much different than they were in his first two seasons. In fact, Lopez’s production slipped back last season, as he hit .227/.281/.273 with no home runs in 480 plate appearances.
López was one of two batters (myles wank being the other) who tallied over 450 plate appearances without hitting a home run. He and Straw tied for the second-lowest slugging of the game, narrowly edging that of Gerardo Perdomo, while ranking in the bottom 10 in hard contact. That lack of power makes him heavily reliant on converting ground balls into singles to boost his offensive profile. That happened in 2021, but his overall career line of .252/.309/.321 sits 27 percentage points below league average as measured by wRC+.
The White Sox, of course, are eyeing Lopez for other reasons. While he has slightly above-average raw speed, he’s an instinctive baserunner who has successfully stolen bags 36 of 40 attempts over the past two seasons. That skill set could take on a little more value in 2023, as the league is introducing limits on the number of pickoff/step-off attempts a pitcher can implement in an at-bat.
More importantly, Lopez has shown the potential for excellent infield defense. DRS oddly rated him eight runs below average at second base in 2022, but that’s an anomaly compared to his solid career marks. Statcast estimated him at 3-over-par runs at cornerstone and 5-over-par runs in 406 innings at shortstop last season. Both metrics identified him as a quality defender at every point in the midfield in previous years.
Chicago obviously sees Lopez as a potential target for its uncertain mix of second basemen. Tim Anderson Y Yoan Moncada will cover the left side of the infield. Second base is much less established. romy gonzalez Y Lenin Sosa look at the current favorites for reps, with a utility veteran leury garcia Also in the mix. Lopez doesn’t bring a ton of offensive potential, but he would pick the floor up with his glove and running the bases.
However, the Royals have a somewhat questionable second base mix of their own, which apparently lessens their desire to part ways with Lopez. Michael Massey he’s the best option after hitting .243/.307/.376 in 52 games as a rookie. That was a good debut, but hardly overwhelming, leaving the possibility of KC going back to Lopez if Massey fights. The Royals already reduced their overall infield depth this morning by trading Adalberto Mondesi to the Red Sox.
Lopez and the Royals agreed to a $3.7 million salary to avoid arbitration earlier this offseason. He is under the control of the club for three years, including the next campaign.