Report on recently traded Blue Jays infielder makes his departure a confusing one

Apr 24, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Otto Lopez (4) throws a ball to
Apr 24, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Otto Lopez (4) throws a ball to / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants lined up on a minor trade that sent Otto Lopez out West in exchange for cash considerations.

Lopez, 25, ultimately was the casualty of an impossibly tight infield logjam for the Blue Jays. For months now, it's been obvious that there's no way to keep Davis Schneider, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Addison Barger, Leo Jimenez, Orelvis Martinez, Lopez - and, more recently, Justin Turner and Isiah Kiner-Falefa - all on the 40-man roster and all getting the playing time they deserve.

Moving Lopez, who was previously believed to be out of minor league options, felt like the best move to make for the Jays. A lack of options automatically makes a player less flexible and more susceptible to being cut - or in this case, traded. This is further amplified if said player is not a star-caliber one. In Lopez's case, he hasn't been given the opportunity to show whether he's a hero or a zero.

According to a recent report from Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, Lopez is not, after all, out of minor league options. Baggarly does not immediately offer an explanation as to why this is, but there are technically some workarounds for the traditional rules surrounding options.

While Lopez had previously been optioned to the minor leagues in 2021, 2022 and 2023, it appears that he has found a way to earn a fourth option year, as pointed out by Minor Leaguer over at Bluebird Banter. Essentially, if a player has accrued less than five full seasons (in either the majors or minors) by the time they hit their options limit, they can earn another one.

These details make the fact that Lopez was the one traded a bit confusing. Espinal has little-to-no bat to speak of but is a superior defender, so a popular theory has been that he would be the one moved. If Lopez was optionable and able to be sent to Triple-A to begin 2024, why was he the one cut loose? Especially when someone like Wes Parsons still occupies a spot on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster. A logjam is a logjam, and someone needed to be moved, but did it really need to be a player that provides value in so many different ways like Lopez does?

A smallball-oriented slap hitter, Lopez can bounce around all over the diamond, steal bases and hit for a respectable batting average. He currently sports a .600 average across 10 big league at-bats but struggled in an 84-game showing at Triple-A last season. For what it's worth, a large part of the Giants' interest in him could come from the 24-game stint he had in the Dominican Winter League this offseason.

In that time, Lopez hit five doubles with two triples and two home runs and 12 RBI. He posted a .310 batting average and .834 OPS while playing all over the infield and outfield. In today's game, defensive flexibility is more important than ever before, so his value is boosted by his versatility.

FanGraphs' Roster Resource currently projects Lopez will be a part of the Giants' Opening Day bench. His ability to play all over the diamond should give him avenues to spell Thairo Estrada at second or any of the team's outfielders on any given day. Perhaps this opportunity is all he'll need to get things going for an extended period of time at the game's highest level.