Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Braves Trade For Derrek Lee

Braves fans had to wait until August, but it looks like we finally got the power bat the team needed as Atlanta acquired 1B Derrek Lee (and cash) from the Cubs for three minor league pitchers. While Troy Glaus has been struggling since mid-June, Chipper Jones’ season ending knee injury solidified the need for the middle of the order hitter. Lee’s recovering from a cortisone shot he received earlier this week to help heal a bulging disc, so he’s expected to be in the line-up Friday at…Wrigley Field. The move has already been analyzed by everyone and their brother (here, here and here), so I might as well go ahead and add my two cents!

I’m excited to have Lee as part of this team for the stretch run. He’s put up abnormally low numbers so far this year with a .251/.335/.416 line to go along with 16 HR and 56 RBI, but those numbers were skewed by a terribly slow start where he hit just .205 over the first month of the season. He’s progressively heated up during the year and is now hitting .306/.381/.694 in August. With Lee, the Braves are able to keep a right-handed bat in the line-up and hopefully add some power. Outside of an injury shortened 2006 season, Lee’s hit at least 20 homers every year since 2000, including 35 last year. Since he’s replacing Glaus, Lee doesn’t have to do much to be an improvement. But if he can show something along the lines of .275 with 8-10 HR and 20-25 RBI for the rest of the season, he’ll be a significant, and important, addition. Lee’s set to make just shy of $3.5 million (which the Cubs will pick up a small portion of surprising $1.7m of ) through the rest of the year and his contract ends after 2010, so there’s no long term financial commitment and the first base spot will be open next year for Freddie Freeman should the team want him there to start the 2011 season. During Wednesday night’s SportsSouth broadcast, Frank Wren seemed to infer Lee might hit in the 3-hole. I think most Braves fans would like to see Lee hitting 5th, so if that’s the case, a line-up could look like this:

Infante – 2B
Heyward – RF
Prado – 3B
McCann – C
Lee – 1B
Gonzalez – SS
Cabrera/Diaz/Hinske – LF
Ankiel/Cabrera – CF

On the other side of the trade, the Braves sent RHP Robinson Lopez, RHP Tyrelle Harris and LHP Jeffrey Lorick to the Cubs. Harris departs as a reliever for Double A Mississippi and Lorick was just recently called up to High A Myrtle Beach after serving mainly in a relief role at Single A Rome, but Robinson Lopez was the corner piece of the package. Talking Chop listed him T-7 on the team’s RHP prospect list coming into the 2010 season. (By the way, if you don’t know about Talking Chop’s Annual, check it’s a must for Braves fans). Lopez was the Braves Gulf Coast League Pitcher of the Year last season after putting up a 1.29 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 3.50 K/BB in 48.2 innings. He’s been having some difficulty this season at Single A Rome with a 4.37 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 1.63 K/BB. But the Braves dealt from an area of strength (pitching), so it looks to be a smart exchange for the team.

As a result, Troy Glaus will lose his starting spot at first base. The team placed him on the disabled list with pain in his left knee and then will send him to Triple A Gwinnett to rehab and brush up on his third base skills. While third is his original natural position, I’m not sure his knees have the ability to hold up at the hot corner, even with rest from his upcoming DL stint. Either way, I think Troy still has some swing left for this team so the time on the DL should be the perfect opportunity for him to recharge for the Braves’ upcoming play-off push.

As a note, the Braves now have 3 players in the top 20 active career home run list with Jones (5th), Glaus (18th) and Lee (T-19th). I’m looking forward to seeing Derrek Lee in a Braves uniform on Friday.

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