Okie Dokie, the Pirates only made two deals. Both of which I think were pretty marginal to be quite honest with you. Both moves are rentals, without a doubt. Oddly enough both moves also bring back some old National League Central rivals.
The first deal was bringing Derrek Lee back to the NL Central.
Can’t touch this, former Pirate Chris Young. If things don’t work out at 1B, Lee sure looks to have a decent career as someone’s sparring partner. And really Young drop the mitts man. You fight like you are just throwing a freaking pitch.
Lee was traded to the Pirates, from the Baltimore Orioles for 1B “prospect” Aaron Baker.
Baker was having himself a pretty nice season at A+ Bradenton this season, hitting for a slash line of .282/.351/.469 with 15 homers. The 23 year old was passed up by former Horned Frog Matt Curry though, who leapfrogged him en route to a promotion to AA Altoona. The fact that he had Curry in front of him, not mention Matt Hague at AAA Indianapolis, and 2011 third round pick Alex Dickerson right behind him makes him very expendable.
Now onto Lee.
Has Lee struggled this season? Yes he has. His .706 OPS is .152 points lower than his career average and .088 points lower than his total from last season. Lee is not very far off of a 2009 season in which he hit for an OPS of .972 though, as a member of the Cubs so there is definite upside in his bat.
Keep in mind that while he is being considered “finished” by some Pirates fans his .706 OPS is substantially better than Lyle Overbay‘s .649.
Lee has seven homers and a slash line of .221/.260/.450 with runners on base. That’s good or an OPS of .710 and 36 RBI, over 140 AB. Of his 31 hits with men on, seventeen of them have been for extra bases.
Lyle Overbay? Three homers, to go with a slash line of .233/.301/.353. That would actually appear to be better than Lee, but it’s not. The OPS is just .655. Over 150 AB. How many RBI does Overbay have in ten more at bats than Lee with men on? 32. He also has just twelve extra base hits out of thirty five hits.
Lee really heated up in July as well, a very good sign that maybe he is finding his stroke. For July Lee is .250/.294/.510. He had six homers in July, tying the amount he hit for the whole season up until that point. He also had six extra base hits to go with those six homers.
Overbay on the other hand scuffled to his worst month of his Bucco career in July. He banged in just seven RBI in July, and hit for a pathetic .218/.277/.322 line with just five extra base hits.
That’s right Derrek Lee hit more homers in July than Lyle Overbay had extra base hits. Not only that, but taking away his homers, Lee also had more extra base hits than Overbay.
I think it’s safe to say that Derrek Lee will be an upgrade, and possibly a substantial one.
Please don’t think I am saying Lee is a savior. In fact I was pretty “meh” on Lee at first, but it Cody Ross and Pat Burrell put the Giants over the top last season. If Lee returns to form the Pirates got a substantial upgrade for a somewhat old, completely blocked, long-shot first base prospect. If he is done, he is done and the Pirates gave up very little to find that out.
Now that takes us to Ryan Ludwick, whose impact is a whole lot murkier.
Not has he been a good baseball player, he is also pretty good at square dancing or something.
Ludwick is another former All Star who is struggling pretty mightily this season. He was traded in the middle of last season to the Padres after a pretty impressive .827 in his time with the Cards last season.
His numbers really dropped off a cliff though in San Diego, putting up a total line of .228/.301/.358 line in his basically one full season there. Petco is a pitchers park though, so his number definitely had to have taken a hit just from that. Ludwick was always at his best as a Cardinal in the NL Central so hopefully the return helps him.
One thing he does provide is some proven dominance against those NL Central opponents.
Chicago Cubs – .289/.349/.521
Cincinnati Reds – .264/.336/.503
Houston Astros – .302/.370/.442
Milwaukee Brewers – .285/.363/.497
St. Louis Cardinals – .222/.349/.333
You can pretty much toss those Cardinals numbers too as he only has played in ten games against them, having been a member of the Cardinals for much of NL Central experience.
Now, obviously there are some different pitchers and such, but I have to think that those numbers are at least a bit relevant.
At the same time though his numbers this year are awful, and unlike Lee they aren’t getting any better. His July was pathetic, and not any better than anyone he would replace. An OPS of .485 just won’t cut it.
Another problem is who does he replace? He doesn’t have a large platoon split, so he profiles as an every day player, but are the Pirates just looking to upgrade from Diaz or is he going to pull full time duty in the outfield?
Ludwick is the quintessential buy low candidate, and to be honest he doesn’t play terrible defense either.
There is really no word on what the return is, but it seems like it probably isn’t going to be much. Depending on how he is used and what is given up I like the idea of this trade. Just like I mentioned earlier about Ross and Burrell, sometimes a pretty marginal looking move can pay off.
I still expect the Pirates to be active and possibly make another deal through the waiver system. I think they dipped their toe in the water and are looking to see what kind of impact these two have. If it’s a big boost I expect them to bring in at least one more pitcher.