Giants' Lopez: 'I'd like to finish my career here'

Giants' Lopez: 'I'd like to finish my career here'
August 9, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Javier Lopez has allowed one home run in 135 1/3 innings spanning four seasons with the Giants. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

"This is where I want to be. I'd like to finish my career here."
Javier Lopez

SAN FRANCISCO -- Left-handed slugger John Bowker was a fan favorite in San Francisco, but his greatest gift to the Giants came at the 2010 trade deadline when he netted another lefty from Pittsburgh -- Javier Lopez.

The reliever has been a pillar of consistency since joining San Francisco before its first World Series run. In four seasons, he has allowed all of one home run in 135 1/3 innings. But Lopez's contract is running up, and he knows star players Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence are facing the same situation.

A relieved Lopez called it a "good day" when the July 31 trade deadline passed this year, and he learned he wouldn't be changing jerseys. The Tigers, Reds and Indians were among the teams interested in the unique southpaw. Now, the Giants have the inside track on returning Lopez during the 15-day exclusive negotiating period after the last day of the World Series.

"This is where I want to be," Lopez told CSNBayArea.com. "I'd like to finish my career here."

They are welcome words to Giants fans, who understand his worth, especially under a bullpen-puppeteer like Bruce Bochy. He's as valued a trade commodity in the market as you will find -- a funky, battle-tested lefty specialist with a wake of victims that reads something like a Home Run Derby entry list.

Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, Jason Heyward, Todd Helton, Adam Dunn and Joe Mauer have all been sent back to the bench by the man with a thousand deliveries.

The 11-year veteran could certainly chase wealth and world championships on the market, but he's at the point in his career where it's not all about money.

"I'm going into free agency with the expectation that wherever I go, money will be a factor, but comfort and what I've gotten to know will be key," Lopez said. "And that's where I feel San Francisco is obviously a place I want to be. This is a place where I've built friendships, relationships. And with the two World Series, it's been a great time -- not only for myself but for my family."

Lopez makes his home in Colorado, where he gets to visit his three-year-old daughter and baby boy on multiple NL West road trips. It's a system that works for the family, especially until kindergarten rolls around in a couple years.

Happy on the home front and fulfilling his occupational duties, it's no wonder Lopez would consider forgoing the chance to earn more money or years in free agency to remain with San Francisco.

"That's a really tough call," said Lopez, who is coming off a two-year, $8.5 million contract. "Obviously, I don't know what the market is going to predict, I'm just trying to put myself in good position."

Lopez's 36th birthday ended the Giants damning stretch of 14 losses in 16 games before the All-Star break, but he's doing all he can to show the 6-foot-5, 220-pound submariner still has gas in the tank.

"I'll play as long as I can get people out," Lopez said with a smile, choosing not to estimate how many years he had left.

It's certainly not a problem, getting people out, this year, as the lefty did his job in dispatching Norichika Aoki on one pitch in the Giants' 4-1 win on Thursday.

"Just the way I like it," he said afterward.

He's pitching just the way all Giants supporters like it. Lopez leads the team with 49 appearances this year. His 1.32 ERA ranks fifth among NL relievers. He's allowed exactly one earned run in his last 37 outings. Entering Thursday, he'd inherited the second-most runners in the NL (44), and allowed a league-low 11.4 percent to score.

"This is a place where I've built some great memories already and I don't want to just quickly forget them," Lopez said.

The storied franchise will never forget Javier Lopez's contributions in two World Series seasons, but a few more years wouldn't hurt.

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