August 19, 2010 by staff
Derrek Lee, Derrek Lee jumped at the chance to go outside the playoff race. Now he is in it. Atlanta Braves NL East leaders for hunting bulk pennant Wednesday, acquiring the slugging first baseman of the Chicago Cubs for three minor league pitchers.
Atlanta and Troy Glaus had at first base, but in an unexpected move, the team put him on the disabled list 15 days. General manager Frank Wren wants Claus to rest my legs for a week, then go to Triple-A Gwinnett to enter some work in his former position, third base.
Lee is now the man at first for the Braves.
“There is nothing better,” said Chipper Jones Atlanta, season-ending knee injury led to the trade. Man exceptional. Exceptional player. Defensively at first base, is first class. And he gives us another presence right hand in the center of our team. ”
Lee just wants another chance to the World Series. He played for the championship team in Florida in 2003 before moving to Chicago, where they put some big numbers for seven seasons – including a career-high 46 homers in ’05 – but never returned to the Series.
Last month rejected a trade to the Los Angeles Angels in the exercise of their rights as a veteran of 10 years who had played at least five years with the same team. He was worried about the Angels have a lot of ground to the AL West.
34-year-old Lee was much more comfortable way to get to Atlanta, which took two-time defending NL Philadelphia by 2 1 / 2 games entering the Wednesday contest against Washington.
“The most important is that we have six weeks to go to Atlanta in the first place,” Lee said during a news conference in Chicago. “They are playing baseball. I felt good. A chance to go to the playoffs, it’s hard to pass up.”
The Braves had the second best ERA in the NL, but needed offensive help, especially after Jones went down last week. If Paul is healthy, will be a big boost to the lineup, only last season, batted .306 with 35 homers and 111 RBIs.
While the star of Martin Prado, is expected to get most of the work at third base, the Braves have more flexibility and the possibility of a lineup with both Lee and Claus. Or, in the most optimistic scenario, Claus could get a job as a designated hitter if Atlanta comes to the World Series.
Lee has been disappointing numbers in the final season of his five years, and 65 million contract, hitting .251 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. It has also been bothered by a sore back that kept him out of the Cubs’ 5-1 loss to San Diego on Wednesday.
Last weekend, however, hit four homers in a three-game series in St. Louis.
“I’ve been watching swinging the bat in the last couple of weeks,” said Jones. “He started swinging with power. The only thing that worries me a bit is that it is a little lame right now.”
The Braves also received cash considerations in the deal. That’s probably to cover some of the nearly 3.3 million and that Lee is still owed this season.
The 34-year-old Claus to put up solid numbers (.239, 16 homers, 70 RBIs), but the Braves said his body is worn out from the routine of the season – especially since I missed most last year, recovering from shoulder surgery. He made a slow start, then hit .330 with six homers and 28 RBIs in May to win NL player honors month.
Glaus stuck in his left knee in the victory over the Dodgers on Monday night, the acceleration of the need to acquire additional offensive support.
“His legs would not hold up,” Wren said, although he was quick to praise the contribution of Glaus. “Frankly, we are not able to make a trade like this without Troy Glaus. He leads us.”
Lee showed a lot of energy last weekend, but a bulging disc in lower back is a concern. He had to leave in the last game of the series and received an injection to relieve pain. He had planned to sit out a three-game series against San Diego and hope to be back by next weekend – when, in an interesting twist, the Braves will be in Chicago to take on the Cubs.
Instead of playing against the Braves, Lopez wait for his new team to arrive at Wrigley Field, then change the uniforms.
“Probably I have to stop running to the bench,” Lee said, standing on the side of the Cubs for the final time. “It’s going to be different, but it will be exciting. Sometimes it’s even more fun to compete against your friends because you can talk a little trash afterwards.”
Wren spoke on Sunday with the Cubs, Jim Hendry, general manager, who proposed the agreement to Lee on the flight back from San Luis. After talking it over with his wife, Lee agreed to go to Atlanta.
Limping to the end of another disappointing season, the Cubs fifth place had little to lose by trying Lee. They had already traded pitcher Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers, and sent infielder Mike Fontenot to San Francisco.
Chicago acquired the right-handed Lopez and Harris Tyrell Robinson and Jeffrey Lorick Braves left-hander. Lorick Lopez were playing in the Class-A Rome, while Harris has launched three levels this season, most recently for Double-A Mississippi.
“None of us thought this would happen this year. Not really,” said Hendry. “It will be good for (Lee) and from that respect I’m happy for him. But the general situation we’re in kind of makes us stumble between miserable and sad every day.”
Lee said he will miss Chicago.
“I had a great time here. I grew as a player, grew as a person,” he said. “We did not meet the ultimate goal. Coming here just seemed we were going to win a championship, so that part is disappointing. But the rest of my experience was nothing but positive.”
Mike Nadel Associated Press freelance writer in Chicago contributed to this report.
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