||Born: September 6, 1975
Height: 6′ 5″
Drafted: 1st Round, 14th Overall, 1993
How Acquired: Traded from Baltimore Orioles
High School: El Camino (Sacramento, CA)
Agent: Casey Close
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates found themselves in the position of being buyers at the trade deadline in 2011 for the first time in a generation. With Lyle Overbay having proven, predictably, to be a complete failure at firstbase, they focused on obtaining a firstbaseman, or an outfielder who would allow them to move Garrett Jones back to first. After failing in their efforts to obtain numerous other players, such as Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham and Carlos Pena, they fell back on Lee, acquiring him from the Orioles for Aaron Baker. The Orioles were desperate to rid themselves of Lee, who’d failed for them almost as badly as Overbay had for the Pirates, possibly due to the lingering effects of thumb surgery. As part of the deal, they picked up some of Lee’s remaining salary.
With the exception of his huge 2005 season, Lee has been a good-to-very-good, but not great, hitter for most of his career. Oddly, though, he’s driven in 100 runs only twice and 90 only three other times. He hasn’t had an especially large platoon split over his career: his career OPS is .896 against LHPs and .849 against RHPs. He generally fanned around once every five ABs during his better years, but his K rate has increased to about once every four ABs over the last few years. Not surprisingly, he no longer runs well and he hits into a lot of double plays. He won three Gold Gloves, but the last was in 2007. Oddly, according to UZR he was slightly below average defensively through that year, but has been a little above average since. The Fielding Bible’s +/- system also has him as about average or slightly above in recent years.
Lee hit very well in rookie ball for 15 games, then moved up to high A for 20 games at the very young age of 17.
Lee spent all of 1994 in high A and just held his own, despite the high-offense environment of the California League. He was still only 18, though.
Returning to the Cal League, Lee had a big season, although strikeouts were an issue. An experimental move to third didn’t work out and was discontinued.
Lee continued to improve in AA, putting up big power numbers and an equally big K total.
Lee had a good, but not overwhelming, season in the good hitters’ environment in Las Vegas. He seemingly sacrificed power for contact, as he cut the Ks way down but also hit well under half as many HRs as 1996. He made a brief major league debut in late April, which lasted a couple weeks, then returned in September.
Sent to Florida in the Kevin Brown trade, Lee spent 1998 as Marlins’ regular at first. He struggled some, but managed 17 HRs.
Struggled badly in early season and, with his OPS at .566, was sent to minors in late May. He hit well in AAA in 89 games and returned to the majors later in the year. He didn’t hit much better there than before.
Lee finally got acclimated to the majors, hitting well, with a good walk total and high K total.
Regressed slightly, with the main changes being a slightly lower walk rate and some HRs turning into doubles.
Lee improved a little, mainly by walking more. His 164 strikeouts later proved to be a career high by 30. He even started running a lot.
Had largely the same season. He cut his K rate a little and continued running a lot.
The Marlins traded Lee to the Cubs to avoid losing him as a free agent. He once again had about the same season as the previous several years.
Had a career year, finishing 3rd in the MVP balloting. He led the NL in hits (199), doubles, average, slugging and OPS (1.080). All were career highs, as were his HR total and OBP. He even cut his strikeout rate to one every five and a half ABs.
Suffered a wrist fracture in mid-April. His OPS was 1.062 at the time of the injury. He played only sporadically after returning, appearing in 50 major league games total.
Bounced back to his pre-2005 levels.
Had a slightly down season.
Bounced back again with his second-best season. Throughout his time in Chicago, Lee was helped by Wrigley Field, where he has a .945 career OPS. He hit better at home than on the road every year with the Cubs, in most years much better.
Struggled for most of the season, some of it maybe health-related. He had back problems that he aggravated in a freak accident during spring training, and also had problems with his thumb. He hit better overall after the deadline trade to Atlanta, but his power dropped off more. After the season Lee said he’d played the final month with a torn thumb ligament. His K rate, which had hovered around one every five ABs, increased to about one every four and stayed there in 2011. He had surgery on the thumb in the off-season.
Signed a as free agent with Orioles and had a terrible first half, posting an OPS of .666 in his first 70 games. He also missed time in May and June with a strained oblique. He began to hit in the second half, putting up a .972 OPS in his final 14 games with Baltimore. Lee became expendable after Orioles acquired Chris Davis from Texas. After joining the Pirates, Lee hit two HRs in his first game, then promptly went on the disabled list with a fractured bone in his hand that resulted from being hit by a pitch. He returned in early September and hit well the rest of the year, with seven HRs for the Pirates in 28 games.
Lee’s hitting with the Pirates showed that his problems in Baltimore probably resulted from the thumb injury. The Pirates would like him to return, but early indications were that he wasn’t interested in playing in Pittsburgh. He’d be a gamble for them at age 36, but not like Lyle Overbay or other similar players. Unlike most of the veterans the Pirates have picked up, Lee has been a very good, rather than merely decent or pretty good, hitter during his career. He’s already hit well at times into his mid-30s and what problems he’s had seem to have been injury-related. Of course, the Pirates would be gambling on him staying healthy. If he leaves, he’ll net them a supplemental first round draft pick as a Type B free agent, if they offer him arbitration.
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1993
MLB Debut: 4/28/1997
MiLB FA Eligible: Eligible
MLB FA Eligible: 2011
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 1997
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 13.125
|June 3, 1993: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 1st round, 14th overall; signed on July 20, 1993.
December 15, 1997: Traded by the San Diego Padres with Steve Hoff and Rafael Medina to the Florida Marlins for Kevin Brown.
November 25, 2003: Traded by the Florida Marlins to the Chicago Cubs for Mike Nannini and Hee-Seop Choi.
August 18, 2010: Traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Atlanta Braves for Jeffrey Lorick, Robinson Lopez and Tyrelle Harris.
November 1, 2010: Became a free agent.
January 6, 2011: Signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles.
July 30, 2011: Traded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Aaron Baker.
October 30, 2011: Filed for free agency.