[Posted by KURT EVANS:] The off-season is one which always promises opportunity, change, and head-scratching transactions that can only promise to end badly. It’s not a Pirates problem — it’s a baseball one. How many teams — not fans, but teams — are drooling over Derek Jeter right now? How many are willing to throw $60 million or more at him for the opportunity to watch him decline while playing a young man’s position?
Okay — maybe Jeter is a bad example, since only the Yankees are that stupid. Nevertheless, bad or overrated players get big contracts all the time. In my neck of the woods (Chicagoland), the Cubs are apparently hot in pursuit of a guy who literally failed to bat his weight last year. This dynamic ball of suck will be replacing the first baseman whose name has been bandied about by the gentlemen of Rum Bunter as of late: Derrek Lee.
You may be wondering yourself if Derrek is a good fit in Pittsburgh. Clearly, he’s a talented player. Lee will enter 2011 with 312 homeruns, a career .282 AVG, and more impressively a .865 OPS. Not to mention the guy has 3 Gold Gloves and should have been the NL MVP in 2005, when he won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for first basemen, but still managed to lose out on the award to another guy who played the same position — Albert Pujols.
But baseball is a What Have You Done For Me Lately game. If career accolades meant anything, then the Pirates would be begging a guy who hit 475 homeruns for them to put the cleats back on and take the field once more. (I’m using Willie Stargell as my dramatic example to emphasize how career numbers mean jack.)
Make no mistake – Lee is serviceable, but is that what the Pirates need right now? He very well may deliver a season on par with his 3 year average (altho’ I’d anticipate his numbers to continue their slow decline, as the man is midway through his 30′s) – a .285 AVG, nearly 40 doubles, 20-25 homeruns, and an OPS in the mid .800′s. But the money Lee will command almost certainly won’t be justified by his production, nor his intangibles.
Ask any Cub fan — Derrek Lee is a shell of a team leader. He’s not going to adequately take the young, upcoming stars on the Pirates roster and mold them into professional, win-oriented athletes. (Odds are, that’ll happen anyway.) Nor will he display the fiery, must-win passion that the Pirates are probably hoping for their youngsters to cultivate.
On top of his lack of real leadership, Derrek Lee is a regular member of the walking wounded. He managed to stay mostly healthy in the past 3 seasons, but he always seemed to be suffering from some kind of nagging problem. It was either a stiff neck, or a sore wrist, or hand problems. He’s managed to overcome these minor wounds in the past, but ask any guy, athlete or otherwise, who’s over the age of 35 — the small stuff quickly turns into the big stuff. Aches become pains, and pains become tramatic hospital stays that end in surgery, a liquid diet, or worse.
In other words, what is Derrek going to do for the Pirates? Is he going to give them the necessary offensive production to reach the playoffs? No chance. Will he provide them with some kind of intangible attitude that will mold them into “winners” down the road? Even if that was possible of some players — and that’s a pretty big stat vs. intangibles argument — Derrek does not have the right mental disposition for that role. Perhaps he’ll provide a reliable, serviceable glove and a steady bat for the next 2 or 3 years? Unlikely — if I was a gambler, I’d bet on Lee missing large chunks of time if not in 2011, then certainly in 2012 and beyond.
Therefore, I say to you nay, do not sign Derrek Lee. There are too many factors working against him, not to mention the likelihood that Pittsburgh won’t be ready to compete until sometime after Derrek’s offensive ability slides into oblivion. Besides — the most exciting part of Pirates baseball is how talented their young stars are. It almost seems that, across the board, the Pirates are a promising team of under-30 players who have the potential to make some big gains in the next two or three seasons. Maybe Garrett Jones isn’t the long-term answer for the Pirates at first base, but for about 5 to 7 million less, he gave the Pirates a .720 OPS last year compared with Derrek’s 2010 OPS of .774. Is the .050 difference between the two worth all that money? I think not. Spend it elsewhere, Pittsburgh. You’ll be glad you did.
Written by Kurt Evans who created GoatRiders in 2004. The man who has created hundreds of Photoshops can write his ass off too. In 2004, he was one of the co-creators of GoatRiders it’s an eye candy filled Cubs blog that makes me smile. And I hate the Cubs. Now go back and click the link and stop dreaming of Derrek Lee. [Smitty]
(note: The opinions reflected in this article are not necessarily shared by the Rum Bunter staff of contributors. Point of fact, it is only because of our overwhelming compulsion for honesty that we mention the following truth: Kurt Evans is bitter about Derrek Lee.
He’s bitter that Lee got into a fight with Carlos Zambrano in 2010, resulting in a variety of mixed feelings – since Carlos was Kurt’s favorite Cub – and he’s especially bitter because his wife drones on and on about how freakin’ hawt she thinks Derrek Lee is. I mean, c’mon, what’s so special about that guy? Ooooh, he can grow a goatee. B.F.D.!)