Astros Deal Wilton Lopez To Rockies For Young Arms

The Deal
The Astros had a deal in place to trade set-up man Wilton Lopez to the Phillies, but when that deal fell through Houston shifted gears and promptly traded Lopez (along with a player to be named) to the Rockies. Colorado surrendered righties Alex White and Alex Gillingham to bolster their bullpen with Lopez.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has spent the past year unloading the organization’s proven players in an effort to add youth and upside to the system. This trade aligns with that goal, but unless the PTBN is a solid prospect, it’s more difficult to see why the Rockies—coming off a 98-loss season—would be willing to trade young pitchers who are years away from arbitration for a middle reliever.

Colorado traded away lefty reliever Matt Reynolds in November, so in a sense Lopez replaces Reynolds and evens the bullpen scales.

 
Astros Acquire
Alex White, rhp

Age: 23. Born: Aug 29, 1988 in Greenville, N.C.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215.

Bats: R. Throws: R.

School: North Carolina.

Career Transactions: Selected by Indians in first round (15th overall) of 2009 draft; signed Aug. 17, 2009 … Traded by Indians with RHP Joe Gardner, 1B Matt McBride and a player to be named to Rockies for RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, July 30, 2011; Rockies acquired LHP Drew Pomeranz (Aug. 17, 2011).

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Colorado Springs (PCL) AAA 3 4 3.71 11 11 0 61 54 28 25 3 23 45 1.27
Colorado (NL) MLB 2 9 5.51 23 20 0 98 114 66 60 13 51 64 1.68

White’s stock has fallen dramatically in the three-plus years since he went 15th overall in the 2009 draft. He ranked as the Indians No. 2 prospect at the time Cleveland traded him (and Drew Pomeranz) to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez at the 2011 trade deadline. Now he’s the key piece in a deal for a set-up reliever. White’s time so far in the big leagues has been rough. Of the pitchers with as many innings as White in 2011-12, only one has posted a higher ERA—John Lackey. Batters have hit .294/.379/.521 off White, but scouts still see upside because he’s still just 24 and his fastball sits in the 90-93 mph range, topping out at 96. He mixes in a slider and a splitter.

“We know what Alex White’s stuff is like,” Luhnow told reporters after the deal. “I’ve known it since he was in college. When I was with the Cardinals, we came close to drafting him out of North Carolina. He’s a guy we believe in. He’s 24 years old and has a lot of career ahead of him and has the stuff to be a big part of the major league rotation for a long time to come.”

 
Alex Gillingham, rhp

Age: 22. Born: Oct 17, 1989 in Camarillo, Calif.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200.

Bats: R. Throws: R.

School: Loyola Marymount.

Career Transactions: Selected by Rockies in 11th round of 2011 draft; signed June 19, 2011.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Asheville (SAL) LoA 6 8 3.66 19 19 0 123 122 58 50 5 28 83 1.22

Gillingham spent the season as a starter at low Class A Asheville in the South Atlantic League. He’s a sinker/slider pitcher with average fastball velocity and a slider that grades out as a tick above-average. Of all pitchers with at least 120 innings in 2012, Gillingham led the minor leagues with a 5.1 groundout-to-flyout ratio. He profiles as a fifth starter or a middle reliever.

 
Rockies Acquire
Wilton Lopez, rhp

Age: 28. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2013-15 seasons ($515,500 salary in 2012).

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Houston (NL) 2012 6 3 2.17 64 0 10 66 61 18 16 4 8 54 1.04
3-Year Totals

13 11 2.64 205 0 11 204 199 67 60 14 31 160 1.13

Quietly, Lopez was one of the most effective relievers in the game in 2012. One of just four players from Nicaragua to play in the big leagues in 2012, Lopez flew under the radar for two reasons. One, it’s easy to remain in relative obscurity when you’re a reliever on the worst team in baseball. And two, Lopez doesn’t post crazy strikeout numbers. He gets the job done by inducing groundballs and showing above-average control. He posted the lowest walk rate of any reliever with 50 or more innings in 2012 (1.1 per nine innings).

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