The Pittsburgh Pirates were very familiar with Derrek Lee by the time he made his way to the team in 2011. Lee, originally a first-round pick by the San Diego Padres in 1993, was sent to the Florida Marlins in the 1997-1998 offseason.
It was in Florida where Lee would make a name for himself. Lee would have a nice breakout season in 2000 where he hit .281/.368/.507 with 28 home runs and a 122 wRC+. This would start the beginning of a long run of very successful seasons.
Up through 2009, Lee was an outstanding batter for the Marlins from 2000-2003 and then the Chicago Cubs from 2004-2009. In these 10 seasons, Lee hit .292/.378/.521 with 270 home runs including six 25+ home run seasons, and a 131 wRC+.
Lee made two All-Star Games with the Cubs in 2005 and 2007. Lee wasn’t just at first base because of his bat, but was also a good fielder. In this span, he had +11 DRS and a 1.1 UZR/150 while winning three Gold Glove Awards.
In 2010, Lee got off to a slow start to the season hitting .251/.335/.416 and 16 home runs with a 101 wRC+. With the Cubs starting a rebuilding phase and in the last year of his deal, Lee was sent to the Atlanta Braves for three minor leagues, none of whom ever made the Majors. Lee was great for the Braves in the 151 plate appearances he received, hitting .287/.384/.465 with 14 doubles, 3 home runs and a 132 wRC+.
Lee then latched on with the Baltimore Orioles where he posted a .246/.302/.404 and 89 wRC+. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who up through the 2011 July trade deadline placed Lyle Overbay as the primary first baseman, traded for the struggling Lee. Though he was struggling up to this point, Lee was outstanding with the Pirates. He only had 113 plate appearances, but collected 34 hits with 7 home runs. He was one of the many first basemen who was a starting first baseman for the Bucs in the 2010’s.