When the Red Sox claimed Felipe Lopez with just a little over a week left in the 2010 regular season, the motive behind the move was clear: Offer Lopez arbitration in the winter and gain a draft pick.
The 30-year-old Lopez is a Type B free agent who made $1 million last year. If and when the Red Sox offer him arbitration, he can either accept and a contract for 2011 can be constructed, or he can decline, and Boston will receive a supplementary draft pick (between the first and second rounds of June's Amateur draft) if he signs elsewhere.
Because he's coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, in which he hit a combined .233 between St. Louis (where he played 109 of his 113 games) and Boston, one wouldn't expect Lopez to receive a hefty raise in arbitration.
But Lopez has a chance to be a productive player in 2011. In 2009, he posted a .383 on-base percentage in 151 games between the Nationals and Cardinals.
Therefore, even if Lopez accepts arbitration with Boston, he could end up being one of the most affordable utility men in the American League next year.
An above-average defender at second base throughout his 10-year career, Lopez can also play shortstop (though not as well), third base and has experience playing left field, right field and first base.
Lopez has the potential to be 2011's version of Bill Hall, only with a better glove and a better eye at the plate; though he does have less pop in his bat than Hall.
Simply put, offering arbitration to Lopez is a win-win situation for Boston, and general manager Theo Epstein should get praise for salvaging one positive out of an otherwise dismal past September.