Braves Acquire Derrek Lee…Where Were the Giants?
Two days ago, the Atlanta Braves acquired Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee for three prospects. The Braves are currently sitting two and a half games ahead of the Phightin’ Phils, and the acquisition of Lee gives them a modest boost at first base with the injury sustained to incumbent first baseman Troy Glaus. As soon as I heard about the deal, the first thing that came to mind was…where were the Giants in all of this?
If you’re unfamiliar with waiver claims, the process is pretty simple: if a player is placed on waivers, each team has a chance to claim him based on their win-loss record. That said, the team with the worst record has first dibs and the player works his way up to the top. The player can only be claimed once, and when he’s been claimed, the two teams have 48 hours to strike a deal. After that…well, nobody can get him. The Giants had a worse record than the Braves two days ago, and they passed on Lee. Considering that the Giants are hoping to make their way into the playoffs, and the Braves would undoubtedly be a team they could face in the playoffs, it makes little to no sense to let him go by. As of today, the Giants are one game back in the Wild Card standings, and six games back behind of division leader San Diego. You’d think that they would be interested in a first baseman that has been on average 35% better than the league average hitter the last three seasons (excluding 2010), but…no. Many like to point out that he’s hitting .251/.335/.416 on the season- and to those individuals, I’d like to point out that he’s hitting .313/.356/.583 in the second half. Of course, we have to be aware of the sample size issue- but something tells me his true talent level is closer to that than the .233/.329/.366 line he had heading in to the All-Star Break. He had an atrocious first half, and it looks like he’s regressing to his mean. While he won’t approach last year’s line, he’s still a serviceable player, and I can’t think of many people that would legitimately want Jose Guillen over Derrek Lee.
I’m interested in knowing the rationale behind the non-move. Did the Giants’ scouts dislike what they saw from Lee? I’d be interested to know if his bat speed has slowed down considerably, or if he looks more like a shell of his former self than a guy that’s just having a bad season. The man is 34 after all, but it’s hard for me to imagine a player that’s been so successful see his rate of performance drop 35% out of nowhere. Statistically speaking, his poor 2010 is likely a medley of natural regression due to aging and some poor luck. Perhaps the Giants didn’t view him as a threat to their chances at making the playoffs or winning in the postseason. But why take that chance?
Perhaps they knew that they’d have to give up a decent return to acquire him. Even if that were the case, it wouldn’t be an issue for the Giants to claim him and then fail to work out a trade. Really, it would seem to be a win-win situation: either you acquire a player that has the ability to help bolster your offense, or you prevent him from going to your competition. Lee’s a free agent at the end of the season and has Type B status- so the Giants could conceivably receive a compensatory draft pick should he sign elsewhere. Or, seeing as how he’s a local boy (he’s from Sacramento), he may want to return- in which case the Giants have a one-year stopgap at (an assumed) modest price to keep the Cold Corner warm for Brandon Belt. If the Giants didn’t pursue Lee because they acquired Jose Guillen, I’ll be speechless. Lee is easily the better hitter and undoubtedly the better defender at his respective position. I feel like having Lee at first and Huff in right would be a modest upgrade from our current combination.
The odds are that the Giants’ passing up of Lee will not be a big deal, but my point is that they had an opportunity to prevent any potential damage and (perhaps marginally) improve themselves, and failed to do it.
What am I missing here?