The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired veteran first baseman Derrek Lee and cash from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for minor league first baseman Aaron Baker. The Pirates made it clear they wanted to improve their offense, but not at any expense, or for any of their top minor league prospects. This deal accomplished both.
Lee, 35, was hitting .248/.306/.409 with 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 41 RBIs at the time of the trade. However, over the past 14 days he was hitting .366/.422/.707 with three doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs (and six home runs total in July), demonstrating that he’s finally healthy. A player who was considered untradeable just a few weeks ago, Lee got hot at the right time and the Pirates took advantage. Lee is an above-average defender and a first-class teammate and he should definitely be an upgrade offensively over Lyle Overbay.
Baker, 23, originally was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 37th round of the 2006 first-year player draft but did not sign. He was drafted again in 2009, this time by the Pirates in the 11th round coming out of the University of Oklahoma. He was hitting .285/.353/.474 with 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 72 RBIs for the Pirates' high Class A Bradenton affiliate in the Florida State League at the time of the trade. Baker is an average defensive first baseman with below-average range. He has the ability to be an emergency catcher and also fill in at third base. He has a long swing and holes at the plate, but when he makes contact, he has legitimate power. If he hits, he’ll play in the big leagues, otherwise he could be relegated to a role as an organizational power hitter.
This deal alone will not improve the Pirates' offense enough to keep them in contention, but it’s certainly better than not doing anything at all.
Pirates grade: C+
Orioles grade: C-