SAN FRANCISCO - The Core Four era officially came to an end Wednesday when left-hander Javier Lopez announced his retirement.
The announcement, made through Fox Sports, did not come as a surprise, as Lopez had a very small list of teams that he would consider playing for in 2017. The Giants, with a promising group of young left-handers, decided early on to go in a different direction. Lopez, 39, had a 2.47 ERA in seven seasons in San Francisco, playing a key role in three World Series runs.
"More than anything, it's just time," Lopez told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. "It's a young man's game. Although I think I can compete, it's getting harder and harder to get ready for spring."
By his lofty standards, 2016 was a down year for Lopez. He had a 4.05 ERA in 68 appearances and struggled with his command at times. Lopez walked left-handed hitter Anthony Rizzo in the ninth inning of an NLDS Game 4 loss, but that was just about the only blemish on his postseason record with the Giants.
Lopez, a brilliant under-the-radar move in the middle of the 2010 season, allowed just one earned run over 23 appearances during the even year title runs. Used primarily against tough left-handers, he held opposing hitters to a .125 batting average during that span. Lopez also won a World Series ring with the 2007 Red Sox, and he spent the final years of his career as MLB's active leader in rings.
As much as the Giants will miss Lopez in the late innings - even last year he held lefties to a .208 average - the impact will be just as great on the clubhouse. He was a leader for a bullpen that has undergone massive changes in the last two years, and the rare reliever who stood up as a voice of the team during difficult times. In good times, Lopez was one of the funniest quotes on the team.
It was an open secret around the team last season that Lopez was likely playing his final year. The Lopez family had recently moved closer to the East Coast.
"I'm looking forward to some other things in my life," Lopez told Rosenthal. "We'll see what they are. I don't know yet, but we'll come up with something."
The announcement comes on the heels of Sergio Romo agreeing to a deal with the Dodgers and Santiago Casilla going across the bridge to the A's. Throw in the retirement of Jeremy Affeldt after the 2015 season and that's 30 seasons of Giants experience that has walked out the door in a short period of time.