I called for Carlos Lee all winter long. The answer to the left field problem just spent the last two days raking Tribe pitching. This was a guy in the last year of a bad contract, with a proven track record, who hits right-handed with power, and can play outfield or first base. The Astros reportedly wanted to all but give him away, but decided on keeping him to play first base. His $18 million salary for a team that was completely rebuilding just didn’t fit. It was thought that the Indians had kicked the tires on him during the winter, but nothing ever came of it. So they moved on.
Yes, Lee has been playing first base and isn’t exactly a gold glover in the outfield, but nobody could be that much worse than Johnny Damon defensively. I know, I know – El Caballo isn’t hitting lefties well this season (.146), but for his career, Lee is at .290/.347/.834. In 2012 as a whole, the 36-year old is hitting .303/.356/.769 with 28 RBIs hitting cleanup for one of the worst offenses in the game. You’d have to say that is a mild improvement over the Damon/Shelley Duncan experiment.
Lee can be plugged right into the left field spot while being rotated in at first base and designated hitter. With the White Sox striking first by adding Kevin Youkilis to play third base, the Indians know they have cannot stand pat with what they currently have. I don’t want anyone to get all twisted and bent out of shape because the White Sox got Youk. This is Kevin Youkilis version 2012, not version 2007 that the Indians (and the rest of baseball for that matter), couldn’t get out. He has a bad back and his numbers have steadily dropped over the past two and a half seasons.
As the great Jon Steiner said in a tweet dripping with sarcasm last night:
Anytime u can trade for a .233/.315/.699 $13 million defensive liability, you pretty much have do it. Them’s LOU MARSON numbers.
The Indians may have checked in on Youkilis, but I truly believe that passing on him was the absolute right move. Third base is covered with the Lonnie Chisenhall/Jack Hannahan/Jose Lopez triumvirate. Casey Kotchman (.230/.289./6 HR/27 RBI/213 ABs) is essentially Youk (.233/.315/4 HR/14 RBIs/146 ABs) while playing gold-glove caliber defense and doesn’t cost the Indians anything. Youkilis’s numbers are actually worse than Damon’s since JD joined the Wigwam. Sure, he may come back out and play angry, but his body is broken.
Lee is the guy the Indians should target. He had four hits and two RBIs in the last two games of the series. It could be a preview of what’s to come in Cleveland. Actually, it should be. The sooner, the better. My guess is it will all come down to how much money the Indians are willing to eat of the approximately $9 million remaining on his deal for 2012.
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