Braves Desperate For Offense, Add Derek Lee
The Deal: The Cubs trade 1B Derek Lee and cash ($1.7 million) to the Braves for RHP Robinson Lopez (Low-A), LHP Jeffrey Lorick (High-A), RHP Tyrelle Harris (Double A)
The Braves: Atlanta desperately needed a big bat with Chipper Jones on the D.L. and Troy Glaus becoming totally ineffective. Unfortunately by waiting till after the trade deadline the Braves severely limited their options (Chipper wasn’t injured at the time, but they could have still used a power OF or 1B bat at the deadline). While Derek Lee is a big name, his production has fallen well below his career standards this season. Lee has been hot of late and does bring a veteran presence to the club, but the Braves paid a steep price to rent Derek Lee for the rest of the season, when he only is a marginal upgrade to what they currently have. Lee is a free agent at the end of the year, and will likely be too expensive to offer arbitration to. In return for him the Braves gave up three young pitchers, including one who has a good bit of upside.
The Cubs: Chicago had been trying to trade Derek Lee for sometime, but with his ability to veto trades they hadn’t had much luck. While this might not have been the Cubs first choice in trade partners, they did quite well in this deal. Lee wasn’t in the Cubs long term or short term plans, so they were likely going to move on from Lee this offseason anyways as their first baseman. By moving him now the Cubs save an additional $1.7 million, and by agreeing to pay half of Lee’s salary they got a pretty good prospect return. Robinson Lopez is the real talent in this group and could make this a big win for Chicago. Despite being just 19 he has the upside to become a frontline starter down the road. It will be a couple years until Chicago sees him with the big league club, but it is likely their patience will pay off. Lorick and Harris are both bullpen arms, and likely in the non-closer variety limiting their value. On the flip side they have both been very successful in the minors, and are more advanced to the point where if they make it, they could be ready within the next 2 years. Lorick is also left-handed giving him quite a bit more value. In all it was a good return for an under-performing rental player.
Winner: Braves were kinda backed in the corner here, but I think they overpaid for Lee making the Cubs the winner in this deal. Atlanta improves some on offense, but trading for someone like Adam LaRoche (again) would have made more sense for Atlanta, and probably would have cost roughly the same (maybe even a little less in terms of a prospect return).