Derrek Lee: Will Atlanta Braves' Newest Piece Really Help?

Jeremy Lookabaugh Correspondent IAugust 28, 2010

ST. LOUIS - AUGUST 15: Derek Lee #25 of the Chicago Cubs rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 15, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cubs beat the Cardinals 9-7.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Trade

The Atlanta Braves traded for Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee to help bolster their lineup in the midst of a playoff run.

Although they lost a veteran player, Chicago gained three minor-league pitchers in the trade: Robinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeffrey Lorick. Atlanta also received cash to  help cover part of Lee's salary.

Lee, who has a full no-trade clause and is in his final year of his contract, approved a deal weeks after blocking a deal that would have sent him to the Los Angeles Angels.

"The timing with the Angels just didn't seem right," Lee told Chicago reporters. "The Angels were close, but not right there. Moving your family for that period of time, this time it just seemed right."


Then Why Atlanta?

"It just felt right," Lee said. "The main thing is we have six weeks to go and Atlanta is in first place and they're playing great baseball. I understand what Jim's trying to do here, so it just felt right."

The Atlanta Braves lead the Philadelphia Phillies by 1.5 games in the NL East race.

Atlanta is counting on Lee to fill a void left by Chipper Jones who suffered a season-ending knee injury as well as the struggling Troy Glaus at first base.

Lee is hitting .251 with 16 homers and 51 RBI this season. Those numbers are below his career norms, but Lee is hitting .313 with six homers and 20 RBI since the All-Star break.

Will Lee Help Atlanta?

"With the loss of Chipper, we really felt we need to improve the middle of our lineup," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "Derek Lee was the best guy out there that was available."

Lee is a career .282 hitter with an .864 on base-plus-slugging percentage, but Lee was batting .245 with a .737 OPS this season, with 16 homers and 16 RBI.

But a year ago, Lee hit .306 with 35 homers, 111 RBI, and a .972 that was the second highest. He was good before the All-Star Game (.280, .865 OPS), but better after the break (.336, and a .1.092 OPS).

Why the Braves Will Win the NL East

The Braves will win the NL East. They have a strong pitching staff with Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson as well as Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens. The Phillies are struggling and just cannot produce any offense.

The Braves will produce down the stretch. It is Bobby Cox's last year as manager for Atlanta and the Braves will not disappoint. They will start another division-title streak, and will go back to their old ways.

They will look to come out of the National League and meet the Yankees for a long-awaited rematch in the World Series.

The Phillies are far too injury-prone. Chase Utley has been injured and has missed 43 games with a strained left thumb. Ryan Howard is only hitting 6-for-35 his last 10 games and neither is producing any offense.

Philadelphia will not win its third-straight National League East title. The Braves will win the NL East and even though they struggled of late, it looks as though they will take control with only 34 games remaining and they will ultimately win the division.