The Philadelphia Phillies continue to raid the Houston Astros for relievers. The Astros are in talks to deal their third closer to the Phillies in the last decade, and this time, it's Wilton Lopez following in the footsteps of Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge. Unlike the prior two closers however, Lopez will serve as the primary setup man for entrenched, highly-paid Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. The return for Lopez is yet unknown, but youd' imagine that the Astros would be looking for prospects, and the bounty is apparently a pair of prospects. Due to Lopez still being under control for three more seasons, you'd expect to be the prospects to be of a quality higher than roster filler.
Lopez was a luxury for the Astros: a dependable, cost-controlled reliever. Players like that are coveted by teams, and if a team was offering any decent return for him, there was no reason for Houston GM Jeff Luhnow to not at least entertain the idea of trading the 29-year old Lopez. Lopez has been with Houston since 2009, throwing 223 2/3 innings mainly in relief. Excluding 2009, when Lopez was awful in six relief outings and two starts, Lopez has been fantastic for Houston, posting a 2.64 ERA with a 7.05 strikeout rate and a miniscule 1.37 walk rate.
Lopez isn't an overly hard thrower, with a fastball sitting at around 92 mph. But he continually has posted a 55% groundball rate, something that helped him tremendously in Minute Maid Park and will do the same in Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies desperately needed some bullpen help this winter, and Lopez is an out of the box solution to fixing a major problem. The team didn't have a reliever aside from Papelbon to produce a one win season for the team, and only Antonio Bastardo and Jeremy Horst return to the team with at least a half win of value in 2012. Lopez immediately becomes the second best arm in Philadelphia's pen, and their team is that much better as a result.