By Paul Sporer & John Franco - we each wrote our own posts on Lee so I decided to put them together so you can get both opinions independent of any influence from the other (we didn’t discuss what each other was going to say on the matter)
I wonder how Starlin Castro will perform on the big stage of the playoffs this October. What’s that you say? The Cubs are 42-65, 16.5 games out of first in the Central and 20.5 out of the wildcard? Pardon me, I just assumed since they weren’t interested in trading any of their players, namely Carlos Pena, whose contract expires at the end of the year, that they must be buyers on the cusp of a playoff push.
With Pena unavailable, the Pirates shifted their focus to Baltimore Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee eventually acquiring him late Saturday night (as first reported by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, he was crushing the updates all evening) for minor leaguer Aaron Baker. As long as you aren’t focused solely on batting average, Pena has outperformed Lee and would have been a much better get, but you can’t get what isn’t available and so Lee will have to do. Fear not Pirates fans, while Lee hasn’t been spectacular, he has still been markedly better than Lyle Overbay.
Thus it is a good deal because in addition to the upgrade from Lee to Overbay, the cost wasn’t terribly significant. Baker is a 23-year old left-handed first baseman non-prospect with a modicum of power and limited upside. In other words, exactly what a team trading a 34-year old Lee with a .313 wOBA should expect to get in return. He is having a bit of a breakout year at High-A Bradenton with highs in all three of triple slash numbers (average, on-base, slugging) and pacing toward big time highs in his counting stats (15 HR, 72 RBI, 53 R in 102 G after 18-79-64 in 125 last year).
This is the kind of incremental improvement deal that fans should’ve expected and should expect on Sunday assuming anything else comes down (I’m still really hoping that Jason Kubel and/or Kevin Slowey get done). From a WAR standpoint, Lee might be worth a full more than Overbay the rest of the way based on their current paces to date. Overbay is below replacement level though while Lee is slightly above and that alone makes it a deal worth doing.
I’ll show you Lee’s career numbers at PNC Park, but I want to let you know that I’m going to throw a wet blanket on top of them almost immediately after that so please don’t get too excited.
PNC Park, as most of you already know, has been around since 2001. Lee played six and half a years with the Chicago Cubs at ages 28 through 34 so while it wasn’t all of his peak, it was a good portion of it and included all three of his best seasons. Point being it is going to skew the data and might wrongly make you think he is set to come to Pittsburgh and dominate. Here comes the wet blanket. This is his erformance the last three years (2009-2011) at PNC Park. This is a more accurate representation of the Lee the Pirates are getting in the trade.
A little bit more wet blanketry shows that only one of his home runs from Camden Yards this year would have been out of PNC Park and even that was close. Here is how his home runs all year overlay at PNC Park according to MLB Gameday BIP Location. Note that he has home runs at Rogers Centre (7/26) and Yankee Stadium (Friday) that aren’t in the data yet. His Rogers Centre bomb went 414 to left center it looks like it would have been just to the right of where the 410 jut is at PNC so it likely would’ve carried out meanwhile his Yankee Stadium bomb went 362 to right and it would’ve been close at PNC.
(Click the images to enlarge them. I pointed an arrow to the ones that are a little harder to identify.)
OK, enough negativity. Lee is having his best month in July hitting twice as many home runs (6) as he has in any other month this year (May) so let’s hope he can stay hot and bring some pop to the middle of the Pirates lineup. If they can take tomorrow’s game, which Lee should be a part of with the Orioles close by in the Bronx, then I can’t imagine how anyone would see a 3-4 road trip in Atlanta and Philadelphia as anything but a success.
It looks like the Pirates have acquired Orioles 1B Derrek Lee in exchange for minor league slugger Aaron Baker. With Carlos Pena off the market, and the Orioles kicking Lee to the curb for Chris Davis anyway, the asking price was low enough to make Lee attractive to the Pirates. [Don't worry about losing Baker, a 24-year old with a .188 ISO at High-A who is already looking like he'll end up behind Alex Dickerson in the pecking order after just a month from Dickerson.]
This seems like a brilliant move by Neal Huntington - Lee may or may not upgrade the offense, but the Pirates traded a prospect for a veteran presence which means that he is trying to win.
I don’t know what the corresponding roster move will be for the Pirates, but it makes sense that:
A. In the long run, it will probably be either Pearce or Overbay that makes room for Lee
B. In the short run, it might be someone else that makes room until the Pirates sort out what they’re doing
C. Ultimately it depends on whether the Pirates also add a hitter in the outfield
Of course, the question is, will Lee really improve the Pirates? Here’s a quick look at the numbers:
Overbay vs. RHP: .257/.312/.376, .312 wOBA, 92 WRC+
Lee vs. RHP: .240/.289/.420, .310 wOBA, 91 wRC+
Pearce vs. LHP: .294/.366/.412, .342 wOBA, 116 wRC+
Lee vs. LHP: .275/.356/.375, .322 wOBA, 100 wRC+
Lee does have a better glove (+2.8 UZR, compared to Overbay at -5 and Pearce at +0.4) but on the surface, things don’t look that great. I think this is a case where the overall numbers don’t tell the full story because Overbay has been terrible in July and Pearce is due for some regression against lefties.
The combination of Lee’s glove and power potential might add up to an extra win for the Pirates. In a tight race, that’s probably enough to justify his salary. Let’s see what else Neal Huntington has up his sleeve.