2010 Player Preview: Derrek Lee
A long time ago, Jim Hendry would pull off obvious one-sided trades to fill the Cubs needs. they were usually a thing of genious. Are we sure Jim wasn't invaded by a body snatcher one night? This was the man that brought us Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee for Bobby Hill, Hee Sop Choi and a set steak knives in the span of a few months.
That brings us to today's subject of player previews: Derrek Lee. Lee has been a success for the Cubs. He's had a huge years and played solid defense, even though that has slipped in the past few seasons. Many people were calling for Micah Hoffpauir last season, only to see Lee rebound to form and bet 35 HR's and quite all the critics about Lee being too old.
The only bad thing is that the Cubs wasted his two best years of 2005 and 2009 by not making the playoffs. In those two seasons, Lee hit 81 home runs in total. It's tragic that Lee has been unable to see the postseason in either of those two seasons.
What can we expect this year? My guess is that Lee will be provide an OPS of around .900, which would be a little more than his career average, but down from last year's .972. Of course, Lee is in a contract year, which could mean big things. Then again, he is about to turn 35 this year, so his best baseball should be behind him. The one thing I don't want the the Cubs to do is sign him to a long-term extension. I would be ok with one year, but beyond that the Cubs will likely kill any flexibility in the future.
Ah, D-Lee. He who evoked the phrase coinage of MVLee. The defacto Clubhouse Leader. The best first baseman we've seen in Chicago since the days when Ernie Banks would lumber around out there.
This very well could be his swan song.
Milton Bradley was right about one thing -- Cub fans are fickle. Just ask Lee: in 2005, we loved him and his ridiculous statistics with an indescribable passion. Fast forward to 2008, and suddenly there were fans decrying Lee, fantasizing about trading him, calling him broke down and washed up because he grounded into more double plays than homeruns hit. They wanted the Cubs to deal him to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez (the equivalent thought would be for me to complain loudly about how my three-year-old Corolla has a break problem, only to take it into the dealership and try to trade it straight up for a '10 Mustang).
Or even less believable, they wanted to unload Lee and his big contract because they believed that Micah Hoffpauir -- a then 28-year-old journeyman minor league first baseman who needed 3 solid tries to figure out Triple A pitching -- would somehow be better than Lee.
But these Cub fans did not taunt Lee with racist remarks, they simply booed the holy hell out of him every time he grounded into a double play.
Anyway, Lee proved in 2009 what we knew all along. Double plays are flukish and not symptoms of an ongoing offensive malady. As Yarbage mentioned, he put on a clinic in 2009. Now in the final year of his contract, we can probably expect to see similar production in 2010 from the guy who, in 7 fewer seasons, has already hit more homeruns than Mark Grace, the "greatest Cubs first baseman" of my lifetime.
It seems unlikely that Lee will be back for more in 2011, but if this truly is his swan song, here's to hoping that it's a glorious one.