April 10, 2010- Milwaukee, WI. Miller Park..St Louis Cardinals Felipe Lopez takes to the field for some pre game warm ups..Milwaukee Brewers lost to the St Louis Cardinals 1-7..Mike McGinnis / CSM.

When the St. Louis Cardinals released Felipe Lopez last week, no one batted an eye around these parts. The Cards said good riddance to their malcontent utility infielder and your or I could have cared less.

It amounts to a footnote in late September for most fans, but for those paying attention to value creation, this acquisition could turn out to be a Grade-A heist.

Jose Oquendo, who serves as Tony LaRussa’s third base coach for the Cardinals, questioned Lopez’ commitment to baseball, stating that Lopez wasted his opportunities in St. Louis.

“We talked during the season. We did everything we could to keep him in the game. But he went his own way. There’s only so much you can handle.” Oquendo said.

So why should anyone be excited about this Lopez acquisition?

When the Red Sox signed Lopez, I read and heard fans joking that Theo was losing his touch and that “we’d never beat the Yankees signing bums like this.” These fans are overlooking Lopez’ anticipated off-season arbitration value. Lopez is expected to be a Type-B free agent after 2010 and if he rejects the Red Sox arbitration offer (which he likely will), then the Red Sox will be rewarded with a supplemental sandwich pick in between rounds 1 and 2 in the 2011 draft. This is compensation for “losing” a player classified as Type B.

Lopez is a malcontent, a problem child and has played for seven teams in his career, but he’s going to be converted into a potential impact player via a draft pick and I applaud this move by the front office. When he was released by the Cardinals organization, he was originally claimed by the San Diego Padres and was expected to join them for the NL West pennant race. Instead, Lopez declined the Padres because he didn’t want to join an established team and then feel left out if they started popping champagne in any sort of playoff celebrations.

Earlier this week, WEEI.com reported Lopez’ position on the Padres situation and his choice of playing baseball in Boston.

“I know a lot of people here, good friends here, and I’ve always wanted to play here,“ Lopez said. “Nothing against San Diego. They’ve got something going on over there and I don’t want to just come [for the] last nine games and not feel like I’m part of it. If they win, celebrating, popping champagne, I don’t want to be the only one like, ‘OK, guys, good luck.’ I just don’t, I don’t like that.”

This free agent signing is a brilliant move by Theo Epstein and serves as a reminder that this organization wants to build from within. They are always looking for opportunity and it reminds me of something Bill Belichick would do. Belichick is known for trading picks and creating future-value seemingly out of thin air. Voila, Felipe Lopez. Free pick.

Lopez will see a little action here in 2010 to close out the frame. He will spell Marco Scutaro for the last week allowing the Red Sox infielder to ease into the off-season, as he deals with the rotator cuff injury in his throwing arm. After this weekend though, the Lopez-Boston relationship will be over.

I’ve heard it thrown around that if Lopez did pull a surprise move and accept Boston’s off-season arbitration offer, he would be in the mix at third base (provided that Adrian Beltre signs a blockbuster deal elsewhere).

Let’s get one thing straight – Lopez is not going to be in consideration at third base for an American League team. He has barely-average power and speed for a second baseman and to consider him an option at third base would be ridiculous. While he does have a decent plate approach (80% CT, 10% BB), his lack of run-creation ability makes him bench fodder on a team like the Red Sox. If Beltre were to walk out of town and the team looked towards internal solutions, the choice would be Jed Lowrie.

When it’s all said and done, this roster move will amount to a late first-round pick for a week’s worth of a backup infielder. This is the same infielder who was trashed by his former third base coach on the way out of St. Louis. One man’s trash is another man’s future sandwich pick.

In the Theo-era, the Red Sox have had 10 supplemental picks dating back to 2003. In that time frame the team has selected the following players:

-Matt Murton (’03)
-Clay Buchholz (’05)
-Jed Lowrie (’05)
-Michael Bowden (’05)
-Kris Johnson (’06)
-Caleb Clay (’06)
-Nick Hagadone (’07)
-Ryan Dent (’07)
-Bryce Bentz (’10)
-Anthony Ranaudo (’10)

Not bad huh? Buchholz, Lowrie and Bowden are all contributors in Boston and Buchholz is being discussed as 2010 Cy Young-candidate.

Buchholz was acquired in the 2005 draft as compensation for losing Pedro Martinez to the New York Mets in free agency. The Lowrie pick was a result of losing Orlando Cabrera and Bowden found his way into a Red Sox uniform after Derek Lowe left for the LA Dodgers.

Some of the other players in that list remain to be seen, but the buzz is strong after Ranuado put on a clinic in the Cape Cod League this summer. And don’t forget that Hagadone was dealt with Justin Masterson to the Cleveland Indians last July in exchange for Victor Martinez.

So for those keeping score, it’s Alex Gonzalez (the first tour of duty in Boston) to Nick Hagadone to Victor Martinez. The Sox let Gonzalez walk in 2007 and he still found his way back to Fenway two years later. That series of events was well-played by the organization and should add to your enthusiasm about flipping Lopez into another high draft pick.

So if you are thinking about buying yourself a Lopez t-shirt jersey, I would advise against it. I wouldn’t bank on Lopez being in the fold beyond October 3rd. But I would advise that you prepare for the Red Sox to continue to load the farm system – something around pick #45 in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft.

Thankfully Lopez prefers non-playoff teams to pennant races and thankfully your Red Sox GM was paying attention. Hopefully they scoop up another Buchholz and we can all look back at this late-season acquisition and appreciate it even more.