Posted by BaconSlayer09
This afternoon, the Chicago Cubs traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitchers Robinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeff Lorick. This post will not detail the prospects that the Cubs got in return. Instead, I will try to gauge just how valuable Derrek Lee might be for the Atlanta Braves.
Lee is in the midst of a very bad season. He is currently sporting a triple slash of .251/.335/.416 for an OPS of .751. This results in a wOBA (weighted On Base Average) of exactly .330. For a first baseman, being average offensively just doesn’t cut it. Lee is a good defender and always has been. However, even his above average UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) can’t save his mediocre effort thus far with the bat, as he has been worth 1.1 wins above replacement for the Cubs this season. If Lee finishes his season as is, it will be his worst full-season since 1998.
Since Lee has had a very good track record and is still not that old at 34, he still has a good chance of rebounding for the Braves. A good example of a first baseman having a great year at age 34 is Paul Konerko. Konerko is currently having the best offensive season of his career and if he keeps going at this rate, he is set to finish with a wOBA above .400. So a bounce-back by Lee is definitely possible. But to what degree will he rebound?
This is when projection systems such as ZiPS come into play. Projection systems take a look at a player’s past performance, his age, his current season performance, and numerous other variables to come up with a projected line for the rest of the year. ZiPS Rest of Season thinks Lee still has a lot left in him. They project a line of .280/.360/.477 from D-Lee, resulting in a .365 wOBA. Lee’s hitting line in August shows that this estimate is definitely possible, as he is mashing with a .446 wOBA in the month of ‘dog days’. If Lee posts a .365 wOBA and a 1.3 UZR for the rest of the year like he is projected to, he will contribute 1 WAR for the Braves. 1 WAR in about 40 games is definitely a noteworthy contribution. But this means nothing if we don’t know what the Braves already had at first base.
Before this trade, the Braves were using Troy Glaus at 1B. Glaus was having an acceptable season before July. However, he’s hit .182 and .208 in July and August. Those putrid numbers have resulted in a cumulative OPS of .749. More or less, Lee and Glaus have been equally mediocre to this point in the season. But, since Glaus has been slumping, ZiPS projects Glaus for a .342 wOBA. On top of that, Glaus is a horrible defender at 1B. He’s been worth -8.1 runs so far while Lee has been a +2.6. The difference between the two’s defense is a whole win. Due to this, Glaus’ projected WAR for the rest of the season is a measly -0.2.
So while Lee may be a valuable player for the rest of the season, Glaus will most likely be a replacement level player, if not worse. The difference between the two is about 1.2 wins. Those 1.2 wins may be a huge difference since the Braves are in a tight division race with the Phillies. As we have seen with the AL Central in the past two seasons, one game can decide everything. Without looking at what the Braves gave in return for Lee, the deal definitely looks like a win for Atlanta.