twin, separated - Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE
Let's see what we've got here.
2000: Mariners sign Jose Lopez
2003: Jose Lopez a Baseball America top-40 prospect
2004: Jose Lopez debuts in majors
2005: Mariners sign Yuniesky Betancourt
2005: Yuniesky Betancourt debuts in majors
2006: Lopez, Betancourt start in middle infield on opening day
2007: Lopez, Betancourt advertised as Double Play Twins; widely considered untouchable assets
2008: Lopez, Betancourt remain middle-infield starters
2009: Lopez breaks out at the plate; Betancourt traded to Royals, with Mariners citing frustration with development
2010: Lopez collapses offensively; Betancourt frustrates with Royals
2010, later: Lopez traded to Rockies; Betancourt traded to Brewers
2011: Lopez released by Rockies, signed by Marlins, finishes with fewer than 250 plate appearances; Betancourt frustrates with Brewers
2011, later: Lopez signed by Indians; Betancourt signed by Royals
2012: Lopez released by Indians, signed by White Sox, finishes with fewer than 250 plate appearances; Betancourt released by Royals, finishes with fewer than 250 plate appearances
2013: Lopez signed by Yomiuri Giants; Betancourt signed by Phillies to minor-league contract with spring-training invite
That's where we are at present. A few weeks ago, Jose Lopez signed to go play baseball in Japan. Earlier today, Yuniesky Betancourt signed a nothing contract with the Phillies. Lopez is 29 years old, and Betancourt is days away from turning 31 years old. Lopez, certainly, will not play major-league baseball in 2013. Things are less certain with Betancourt, but right now he's on the outside looking in. In 2007, Lopez and Betancourt were franchise building blocks, with their own tandem team commercial. In 2013, it's possible that neither Lopez nor Betancourt will get a single major-league plate appearance.
For good measure, another thing that happened today is that Ronny Cedeno signed a major-league contract with a contending team. You remember the Mariners had Cedeno for a little bit in 2009, and he hit .167 with a .504 OPS, and he looked like a little kid in a grown man's baggy uniform. In 2009, we couldn't figure out how Ronny Cedeno made it to the majors with his apparent skillset. In 2009, Ronny Cedeno was the immediate replacement for Yuniesky Betancourt, and right now Cedeno has a tighter grasp on a major-league job than Betancourt does. Betancourt was already a pile of crap by the time Cedeno came around in Seattle, but it says something that Cedeno's still going while Betancourt's almost entirely out of chances. This is how far Yuniesky Betancourt has fallen.
I don't know how Lopez is going to do in Japan, and I suspect that nobody does. I don't know if Betancourt is going to make the Phillies, or if he's going to hang out in triple-A, or if he's going to demand his release so he can try to sign on somewhere else. Lopez, though, has already been chased from the majors. Betancourt practically has. The Double Play Twins are hanging on by a thread, or, more accurately, Betancourt is hanging on by a thread, while Lopez is hanging on to Betancourt. He's their link to the majors, but it's going to take a lot of work, and Yuniesky Betancourt has never been much of a hard worker. At least not stateside, at least not in any way that we've heard about.
Some years ago, Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt couldn't and wouldn't be traded. This year, Major League Baseball might see neither of them. The older of them is younger than Dontrelle Willis and Wily Mo Pena. The obvious, immediate lesson is that you just never know, even with position players, and you should take care not to take anything for granted. But that doesn't feel particular enough to these specific circumstances. Perhaps a more fitting lesson would be that Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt didn't suck, and then they did. For the sake of their own careers, they probably shouldn't have started sucking. But, I mean, duh.
I was reading an article earlier today about how Felix, Lopez, and Betancourt were close when they were all Mariners. Maybe we're unlucky. Or, maybe we're exceedingly lucky.