July 31, 2011

Finally, A Trade

The Lyle Overbay era is over! The Pirates added veteran first baseman Derrek Lee.tonight for minor leaguer Aaron Baker. Expect Lee to start at first base for the rest of the season. The Orioles were in New York this weekend so Lee should be in Philadelphia for tomorrow's game - one the Pirates really need.

This isn't the move I was hoping for. The 35-year-old Lee is an upgrade over Overbay both at the plate and in the field, but still is hitting only .246/.302/.404 this season. The biggest sign of decline to me is in his plate discipline: Lee averaged 73 walks from 2007-2010 but has just 25 free passes this year against 83 strikeouts.

However, Lee is also a player who is capable of summoning the old magic for a two-month straight run. Last year, he was hitting .251/.335/.416 for the Cubs through 109 games. Traded to the Braves on August 18, he improved to .287/.384/.465 down the stretch to help Atlanta win the NL wild card. He'll also obviously be back in the National League with this deal. Lee struggled early after moving to the American League after 14 years in the NL, and for any player the NL Central certainly is an easier division to play in than the AL East.

Analysis of intangibles is largely bullshit, but for what it's worth, Lee is considered a great guy and a great teammate. He has 324 career home runs, 1,925 hits, four playoff appearances, and a World Series ring with the Marlins in 2003. Rarely does a team win a championship without one or two seasoned veteranhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifs like Lee.

Fangraphs predicts Lee will hit .266/.340/.448 for the rest of this season. Those on-base and slugging numbers would put him second on the team to Andrew McCutchen in both categories. I would use the addition of a decent power bat to justify moving McCutchen up to second in the order, giving a lineup for the time being of: Paul, McCutchen, Lee, Walker, Jones, Alvarez, Cedeno, McKenry.

I'm on board with the Lee deal - it's a clear upgrade if only an incremental one. The Pirates gave up a 23-year-old Class A first baseman who was an 11th round pick and didn't make the top 30 prospects prior to the season. Yet it shouldn't be the only deal the Pirates make. With Garrett Jones hitting .230/.317/.404 and Matt Diaz hitting .262/.295/.333, there's a clear need for an outfielder and I want to see one added tomorrow afternoon.

Who will Lee replace on the roster? Well, the obvious move would be to designate Overbay for assignment. Yet on the bench, Overbay would still be the Pirates' best left-handed pinch hitter. I think the Pirates will simply send Pedro Ciriaco back to Indianapolis. We'll see him again in September.


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