Arizona designated López for assignment earlier this week to clear 40-man roster space for the selection of Josh Reddick. The righty has gotten off to a difficult start to the year, pitching to a 6.57 ERA over 12 1/3 innings. That’s his second straight season of poor run prevention, as López only managed a 5.95 mark across 19 2/3 frames in 2020.
Those struggles led the D-Backs to move on from the 28-year-old, ending his six-year tenure in the organization. The previous front office regime signed López to an $8.27MM bonus as an amateur coming out of Cuba in January 2015. Under the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement, the López signing barred the Diamondbacks from signing any other international amateur prospects for greater than a $300K bonus during either of the 2015-16 or 2016-17 international signing periods.
That decision proved to be one the organization would regret, as López never lived up to those lofty standards. He wasn’t completely unproductive in Arizona, though. López tossed 60 2/3 innings of 3.41 ERA ball in 2019, proving to be one of the D-Backs more reliable relievers that season. While he’s struggled to keep runs off the board the past two seasons, he has at least shown some flashes of promise.
López is inducing ground balls at a decent 45.2% rate, and he’s seen a slight uptick in swings and misses this year. His 21.3% strikeout rate is a career best (albeit still three percentage points worse than average for a reliever), excluding a 2018 season in which he only pitched nine innings. More impressively, López has generated whiffs on 12.7% of his pitches, a mark that’s slightly better than league average. He also brings a power arm to Atlanta, sitting 95.7 MPH on his heater.
Perhaps most appealing for the Braves is López’s contractual flexibility. He still has all three minor league option years remaining, so the front office can shuttle him back-and-forth between Atlanta and Gwinnett as they see fit for the next few seasons, so long as he sticks on the 40-man roster. As a player with 2.011 years of MLB service, he’s only making slightly more than the league minimum salary this year.
In return, the Diamondbacks will pick up a low-level developmental flyer. Estrada, 20, didn’t advance past the Dominican Summer League in the Atlanta organization. He hit .307/.433/.366 with more walks than strikeouts in 255 plate appearances at that level in 2019, playing mostly center field. Estrada has never been included on a Braves system ranking at Baseball America or FanGraphs.