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The Lee Deal

In case you have not yet heard, the Cubs traded Hee Seop Choi and a PTBNL to the Marlins today for Derrek Lee.

On the surface this looks like a horrid deal, particularly since it seems to be sending two messages:

1) That if you are younger than, say, 28, you will simply not get a chance to play for the Cubs under Dusty Baker.

2) That although the Cubs' recent farm system products have been highly praised, they will simply not get a chance to play for the major league club, unless

3) They are pitchers.

(Yeah, yeah, I know, I said "two messages". Always remember Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade when you try to count to three. I'll come in again.)

Lee is 28, hardly "old", and in his last four full seasons, his OPS increased each year, to a career high .887 in 2003. Unlike Randall Simon (who no doubt will be kept around as a bench player/pinch hitter/sub first baseman), Lee does draw a lot of walks, and let's hope Baker doesn't convince him to stop doing that. He also is a good defensive player who made only five errors last season, winning a Gold Glove (though as we all know, those awards often go to players having good offensive seasons too).

He stole 21 bases last year and 19 the year before, but I wonder how much of this is real baserunning speed and how much is the team philosophy on running. He never stole more than five bases in any year before that.

On Lee's downside, he strikes out a lot (though I think we could have expected this from Choi as well), and hits into a fair number of double plays, odd considering he has baserunning speed (which is probably something else that enticed Baker to want him. I presume this deal is 100% engineered by Dusty Baker, not Jim Hendry).

All of these are things that Choi might do in the next few years, and I guess what the Cubs thought is that Lee has done them now, and is likely to do them again for the next few seasons.

I have heard that the PTBNL will NOT be one of the Cubs' top minor league pitchers, any of whom could be traded for help at other positions where the need is greater (second base? Jose Vidro, maybe?).

Lee's OPS over the last three years is .887 on the road and .828 at home, which suggests that he might be able to sustain a close-to .900 OPS with Wrigley Field as his home park, which also means he'd play more road games in Houston & Cincinnati, other good hitters' parks, rather than New York and Montreal, not good hitters' parks, as he did with the Marlins.

End result: this isn't a terrible trade, just an unnecessary one, as the Cubs have larger holes to fill. I'd suspect Lee could bat fourth, behind Sammy Sosa, with Aramis Ramirez fifth and Moises Alou dropped to sixth.

One final note: Lee's father is Leon Lee, brother of former major leaguer Leron Lee. Leon Lee worked for the Cubs for many years as Pacific Rim coordinator. Ironically, that means he's almost singlehandedly responsible for the Cubs having Choi in the first place. Lee also signed Jae-Kuk Ryu, a Korean pitching prospect who was perhaps best known for injuring an osprey, an endangered species in Florida, while pitching for Daytona last year, forcing his demotion to Lansing. He was listed as one of Baseball America's Top Ten Cub Prospects for 2003.

Final note: if you haven't heard about the ticket-scalping lawsuit involving the Cubs' own ticket brokerage, a Cook County judge ruled in the team's favor yesterday. This is nothing short of outrageous; a lawyer friend of mine who has argued in front of this judge tells me that he has often wondered if she "gets it" (meaning the legal points being argued).

It's clear to me that the Cubs scalping their own tickets is in violation of a state statute that dates back to 1935, and was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1974. If the plaintiffs have enough money to appeal, I'd think they'll certainly win.

Oh, and if you haven't heard about this, it's probably because you are reading only the Cubs website (no link here today, go find it yourself!)... they haven't mentioned this story at all.

Sad. The fan gets screwed again.