Although word has been out for much of the day that Derrek Lee was on the way to Atlanta in a waiver deal, the deal wasn’t made official until 5:25 Eastern Time, according to Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal. We now know, as well, that the Cubs will be sending cash along with Derrek Lee to the Braves, and the Braves will send back three minor league pitchers. The pitchers are right handers Robinson Lopez and Tyrelle Harris as well as left hander Jeffrey Lorick.
The real get here is Lopez. The 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic just missed out on Baseball America‘s organizational top 10 prospects list for Atlanta and ranked exactly 10th in Baseball Prospectus’s pre-season look at the Braves’ system. Lopez has a fastball that reaches as high as 96, an extremely projectable frame, and at 19, that’s a player with a ton of potential. If his secondary pitches don’t develop, he will probably be limited to the bullpen. To date, he has thrown 110 innings as a starter and 33 as a reliever, and, naturally, Lopez has performed much better in the bullpen. However, I would not limit a player with Lopez’ potential to the bullpen at such an early stage in his career.
Lorick and Harris are exclusively relievers, which inherently makes their value much lower than that of Lopez, as does the fact that both were, at least at some point this season, teammates with Lopez at low-A Rome despite being 22 and 23, respectively. That doesn’t mean that Lorick and Harris don’t have some value, though, as both have performed well in the minors in their careers and have shown the potential to make up the back-end of a bullpen. Harris has struck out 84 batters in 68 minor league innings, and Lorick has struck out 85 in 86 innings. Both have a tendency toward ground balls, as well – Lorick in particular. Both are far enough away from the majors that they are anything but a sure thing, but it’s not like these players are throw-ins. They definitely supplement the value brought in with Lopez.
The Cubs are a team with plenty of money and a large fanbase, so they really shouldn’t need to perform salary dump deals with players like Derrek Lee. Lee was making roughly $3.25 million for the rest of the season, a number that likely has little impact on the Cubs’ finances for this year or in the future. Instead of dumping Lee’s salary and getting little in return, the Cubs were aggressive, and threw cash into the deal to help coax some legitimate value out of this deal. Jim Hendry deserves major credit for this trade, as instead of spending his money on an aging first baseman on a fifth place team, he now has three more solid pitching prospects to load into his system. This is just an excellent overall pickup for Chicago.
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