Lopez Helps Red Sox Fill In For Varitek

The Orioles signed Javy Lopez to much fanfare as a free agent prior to the 2004 season. The Red Sox acquired him Friday from the Orioles in a minor trade with little fanfare, with the Orioles helping pay the way out of town for a disgruntled veteran.

The Sox got Lopez to help fill the void left by Jason Varitek, whose left knee which required surgery that could sideline him for six weeks or more. Lopez, batting .265/.314/.412 as a part-time player with the Orioles, cost just a player to be named or cash considerations.

Lopez, 35, joined the Red Sox in time for Friday’s game at Tampa Bay. The former Braves star and cleanup hitter for Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic team has has a reputation as an offensive catcher, but he hasn’t been able to reprise his record 2003 season that earned his three-year, $22.5 million contract from the Orioles. He’s making $8.5 million in this, the final year of the contract, and the Orioles threw in $1.2 million of the $2.7 million he’s still owed to get the Red Sox to take Lopez off their hands.
Lopez has a career major league average of .288 with 260 home runs and 860 RBI in 1485 major league games with the Braves and Orioles. He has hit 243 homers while catching, sixth highest in major league history, and his .294 average while playing behind the plate ranks fourth best among active catchers with at least 2,000 at bats. While he batted a robust .316/.370/.503 in his first year with the Orioles in 2004, he batted just .278/.322/.458 last season, and his defense has slipped due to his age, back problems and reduced mobility.

October 3 update: The Red Sox sent Triple-A outfielder Adam Stern to the Orioles for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Boston originally tried to make Stern the player to be named for Lopez in August, but the Devil Rays blocked it when they claimed Stern on waivers. This is apparently a procedural move that will accomplish the same goal.

Stern, 25, originally signed with the Braves as a 2001 third-round pick from Nebraska and went to the Red Sox in the major league Rule 5 draft at the 2004 Winter Meetings. After spending most of the 2005 season on the big league roster to satisfy the Rule 5 provisions, Stern played most of this year at Triple-A Pawtucket. He hit .258/.300/.388 with eight homers, 34 RBIs and 23 steals in 93 games, with his season ending in August because of a hamstring injury. A line-drive-hitting center fielder whose strongest suits are speed and defense, Stern needs to do a better job of getting on base because he won’t hit for much power. He profiles more as a fourth outfielder than as a regular.

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