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Ryan Ludwick to the Pirates
I love this trade for the Pirates. He may be batting just .238 with a .301 on base percentage, but Ludwick is also responsible for 11 home runs and 64 RBI. Plus, on the road Ludwick has 39 RBI in 49 games. That puts him on pace for 130 RBI should he play 162 road games. That is key since Pittsburgh is closer to neutral than the pitcher’s friendly Petco Park.
Derrek Lee to the Pirates
The .246 average may not impress anyone, but Lee is batting .298 with 13 RBI since the All-Star break. A long-time National Leaguer, Lee boasts a .297 career average at PNC Park. He is a solid replacement over the struggling Lyle Overbay at first base.
Michael Bourn to the Braves
The Houston native was thrilled to be an Astro, but at least he will now get a chance to play for a contender. Bourn is best known for his defense in centerfield and his speed on the basepaths. He is a bit of a free-swinger for a leadoff man, but thanks to a .303 average, Bourn is getting on base often this season. He should now rack up more runs with some big bats behind him in the Braves lineup.
Hunter Pence to the Phillies
While Carlos Beltran may be the better player now, Hunter Pence likely has the better future. It should be fun to see how he develops now that he enters a favorable ballpark in a solid lineup. A model of consistency, Pence has blasted 25 home runs in three straight seasons and hit .282 the last two. His value soars now that he will add greater run production due to the likes of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the Phillies lineup.
Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals
The lone home run and .197 average says he’s done, but Busch Stadium has been known to have the Ponce De Leon fountain of youth (just check out Lance Berkman). In the Cardinals lineup, Furcal is bound to improve. Plus, the trade breathes new life into the 33-year-old shortstop who now gets a crack at meaningful baseball.
By R.J. Anderson //
The Baltimore Orioles’ infield has received a makeover this offseason. Trades for Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy filled the holes on the left side, while the latest move – signing Derrek Lee – completes an infield around the venerable Brian Roberts. Lee comes at a steep price (the contract carries a max value of $10 million) despite hitting only .260/.347/.428 last season. Can a 35-year-old Lee recover from a down season in the game’s toughest division?
Perhaps burdened by an underachieving team, Lee struggled with the Chicago Cubs to the tune of a .251/.335/.416 line. The Cubs traded Lee to the playoff-surging Atlanta Braves following an injury to Troy Glaus in August and immediately saw his line shoot up: Lee hit .287/.384/.465 in 39 games worth of action with Atlanta. While the success with the Braves is encouraging relative to his Cubs’ struggles, it is not a sure sign that Lee is back. A more encouraging note: from 2007-2009, Lee hit .304/.384/.515 and averaged 26 home runs a season.
Beyond the surface, the big differences from Lee’s 2010 and prior seasons came down to strikeouts and batting average on balls in play. Lee fanned 17.4% of the time during his glory days, as opposed to 21.4% in 2010. He also saw his BABIP drop from .340 to .309. The decrease in batted ball success is at least partially responsible for Lee’s ISO dipping below .170 for the first time in his career (excluding his 236 plate appearance stint in 1999).
A sharp decline in BABIP can usually be waved off as either bad luck or random fluctuation. There seem to be larger concerns at work with Lee, though, as scouts have questioned his bat speed (according to ESPN’s Keith Law). Lee’s new division features left-handers with stellar fastballs – CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, and David Price for starters – meaning that Lee owning a platoon advantage may not be enough to find success.
As such, Lee becomes someone to watch on draft day. He’s worth a shot at the end of a standard mixed league draft, or a little earlier in shallower mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
By R.J. Anderson //
With only six weeks remaining, the National League East race is heating up. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are the only teams with realistic shots at hooking the title, but both have endured a rash of injuries in recent weeks. But while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are now back for the Phillies, the Braves have lost Chipper Jones for the season and Troy Glaus is on the disabled list.
Counting on health with Jones and Glaus on the corners is like playing Russian roulette with a full clip. The Braves have responded by adding long-time Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. A pending free agent, the Cubs received more value than they should have for Lee, but that aspect isn’t nearly as important for the short-term as what the Braves received.
Glaus owners in particular should be looking at adding Lee, as he’s still available in 6.5% of ESPN leagues. Lee’s seasonal line is a disappointing .247/.333/.410 with 16 homers and 65 runs batted in. One of the more telling differences between Lee’s magnificent 2009 season, in which he hit .306 with 35 homers and 91 RBI, and his 2010 campaign, is his strikeout rate. In about 100 fewer at-bats, Lee has struck out just five fewer times than he did all of last year. The soon-to-be 35-year-old is striking out at his highest rate since leaving the Marlins in 2003.
Lee is still walking and his non-home run power (22 doubles) is in line with 2006-2008 totals. The raisin in the sun is Lee’s batting average on balls in play. 29.1% of Lee’s balls in play are turning into hits, marking a career-low dating back to 1999 and more than 30 points below his previous low over the past five years. Batted ball data suggest a bit of a change in how Lee is hitting the ball, with a slight uptick in grounders over last year and a steady drop in flyballs. Lee is getting slightly fewer infield hits, but that comes with fewer infield flies too, a worthy trade-off in the big picture.
Graphic courtesy of Baseball-Reference
Being dropped into a pennant race could revitalize Lee’s spirit (and he has heated up lately) but do not expect him to hit like he did last year. Lee’s 2008 line of .291/.361/.462 line is probably a good best-case scenario for the last six weeks of 2010.
As for the other significant recent waiver acquisition, Pedro Feliz with the Cardinals, don’t bother unless you play in a fantasy league where the goal is to field the worst players. In that case, he is a keeper.
For more on Derrek Lee, Pedro Feliz, and other late-season adds, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.