Turns 35 next month; it just seems like he’s been playing since 1980. Lee was a hot prospect way back in 1997, when the Padres called him up. After the season, he was the biggest take the Marlins got for Kevin Brown when they sold off their first set of champions, and Lee was inserted in the lineup every day even though he probably wasn’t, quite, ready. Lee demonstrates a hole in the Marlins’ model. By calling him up at 22, they wound up having to let him leave while he was just at his prime, dealing a 27-year-old gold glove first baseman who had just hit .271/.379/.508. At the time, he was just a good player. At 29, in his second year with the Cubs, he had a season that is completely out of context with the rest of his career, hitting .335 to lead the league, and also leading in slugging, doubles, hits, and total bases. He’s not that good, and has only one other year of leading the league in anything, and that games played in 2002. But until this year, every year since 2000 Lee had been a strong player who didn’t have any real weaknesses. And last year was the second-best year of his career.
This year has been his worst since 1999, as he’s hit just .251/.335/.416. He’s hit much better in the second half, .313/.356/.583, but the sample size is small, 104 PA. He’s had some injuries, in particular a back problem that he’s getting a shot for (delaying his report to the team.) If the shot works and he’s healthy, chances are that he will continue to hit as he usually has. On the other hand, you have to remember that he’s almost 35 years old, is a big guy, and has only once really been a star. That doesn’t seem like the kind of player who would age well. But he might surprise you, and it’s a worthwhile gamble — one with relatively little downside.
An outstanding fielder, winner of three Gold Gloves. Used to run pretty well; doesn’t, anymore, but if he raced Glaus three times around the bases he’d lap him. Hasn’t had a really pronounced platoon split in his career, but hits lefties a little better than righties, which with the number of lefties the Braves see will help.