MLB News: Braves to trade for Cubs’ Derrek Lee

Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee bats against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 30, 2010 in Denver.  Lee recently rejected a trade to the Los Angeles Angels and remains a Cubs player.   UPI Photo/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Braves will finalize a deal for Cubs’ first baseman Derrek Lee sometime on Wednesday.

Apparently the only thing holding up the deal is Lee’s troubling back. He had an injection in the epidural of his lower back on Monday to help ease the discomfort created by a bulging disk and has missed the past two games.

Lee is in the final year of his contract and is still owed $3.4 million. He has struggled for much of the season while hitting just .251 with 16 dingers in Chicago. But his .939 OPS since the All-Star break is attractive to the Braves, especially with Troy Glaus struggling at the dish.

Lee (who has a no-trade clause in his contract) can reject the deal, just as he did in July when the Cubs were ready to send him to the Angels. But Atlanta has reportedly already been told that he would accept a deal, so the only issue that remains is his back.

It’s doubtful that the Cubs will get much in return for Lee at this point, but the key is that they’ll get a little financial relief heading into what will be a rebuilding year in 2011. The youth movement is already on in Chicago, who has traded Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot over the past month.

Now if only the Cubs could find someone to take Alfonso Soriano, Koskue Fukudome and Carlos Zambrano off their hands.

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Piniella on his way out? Not according to GM Hendry.

For those Cubs fans that have been clamoring for Ryne Sandberg to replace Lou Piniella as the club’s skipper, you’re going to have to wait much longer, I’m afraid.

General manager Jim Hendry told the media on Monday that Piniella isn’t to blame for the team’s lackluster start (17-22 heading into Tuesday’s action, good for third place in the NL Central) and that the manager’s job is safe for the 2010 season.

“We’re certainly not here to play the blame game,” Hendry said Monday. “We’re not here to put all the blame on the players that haven’t done as well as we’d like either. It’s been a good, collective rough start, but there has not been one thought in my mind of Lou Piniella not managing the team this year.”

While many of the adjustments he has made with personnel certainly haven’t panned out this season, it’s hardly fair to blame all of the Cubs’ failures this season on Piniella. Two of his best hitters (Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez) have crapped the bed all season in RBI situations (and all situations for that matter) and he can’t find a reliable setup man to get to Carlos Marmol in the ninth. (He tried Carlos Zambrano there but much like his effort in 2010, Big Z was brutal in the role.) The bottom line is that the Cubs haven’t produced and a change in manager won’t magically remedy the situation.

The good news is that Lee has started showing signs that he’s ready to break out of his funk, Alfonso Soriano has actually thrived batting sixth in the lineup and young phenom Starlin Castro (who struggled defensively when he was first called up last week but appears to be settling down) is spanking the ball. If A-Ram (who hit a walk off homer to beat the Rockies Monday night) can shake out of his slump and start producing, then the Cubs can easily turn things around.

Things haven’t been pretty for the Cubs so far, but it’s early yet and the club’s issues aren’t un-fixable. Making a switch in managers would be premature and Hendry knows that. He just has to trust that Piniella can right the ship, just as Lou has to trust his players will snap out of it and start producing.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Five new playoff contenders for the 2010 MLB season

While some enthusiasts will argue otherwise, there’s usually not a lot of change from one year to the next in baseball. Most pundits expect the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, Cardinals, Twins, Dodgers and Rockies (all eight teams that made the playoffs in 2009) to be good again this year. MLB isn’t like the NFL where teams make unexpected playoff runs every year.

That said, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of sleepers to watch out for in 2010. Below are five clubs that didn’t make the postseason last year that have the best odds (in my estimation) of making the playoffs this season.

1. Chicago White Sox
If you read the 2010 MLB season preview, you’re not surprised to see the White Sox at the top of this list. As long as Jake Peavy stays healthy, Chicago arguably has the best starting rotation one through five in the American League. (Boston fans may argue otherwise, but Boston fans can also shove off…just kidding…although not really.) But the key to the Chi Sox’s success this season lies in their offense. Yes, I’m banking on veterans Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Mark Teahen, Paul Konerko and Mark Kotsay to have productive years and yes, that may be asking a lot. But Gordon Beckham looks like a star in the making and the addition of Juan Pierre gives the Sox a solid leadoff hitter. I’m well aware that Chicago could finish third in a three-team race in the AL Central, but their pitching is going to keep them competitive all season and I’m willing to bet that their offense won’t be as bad as many believe.

2. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have all the pieces in place to not only compete for the AL Wild Card, but also unseat the Angels in the AL West. Along with Felix Hernandez, the acquisition of Cliff Lee now gives Seattle the best 1-2 punch in the American League outside of Boston’s Josh Beckett and John Lackey. The problem is that the lineup lacks major punch. Chone Figgins and Ichiro give the M’s quality bats at the top of the order, but can this team score enough runs on a nightly basis? The club has been built on pitching and defense but if they want to make the postseason, the Mariners will have to prove that they can overcome a powerless lineup.

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2010 MLB Preview: NL Central

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the NL Central.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (4)
Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday could help the Cardinals win this division sauced out of their minds on a nightly basis. That said, would anyone really be surprised if Carpenter’s arm falls off and the starting pitching (which is among the best in the league) suffers? It’s happened before, so if you answered “yes” to the proposed question then you sir or madam, have not been paying attention. Still, the addition of Brad Penny (who pitched well in the second half last year) will strengthen the club’s starting pitching and Kyle Lohse is a fine middle of the rotation guy. Pujols and Holliday will ignite the offense again, although Colby Rasmus might be the key to whether or not this team makes a serious World Series run. Skip Schumaker is a solid table setter, but how Rasmus fairs hitting in front of Pujols and Holliday could be the difference between the Cards winning the NL Central again and playing for a championship. David Freese better produce too or else the club will regret not acquiring a veteran third baseman in the offseason. All in all, the Cardinals are the best the NL Central has to offer and should make another postseason appearance this season. But how far they go beyond that depends on whether or not Carpenter and Wainwright can continue their magic and if Pujols and Holliday receive help from the rest of the lineup.

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Ten Predictions for the MLB second half


The second half of the 2009 MLB season has kicked off and with that, I’m going to make some predictions that are sure to be proved wrong in a couple months.

Feel free to whip out your crystal ball in the comments section but before you do, please do everyone a favor and take off your favorite team prescribed glasses and be objective for once in your life, will ya?

1. The Blue Jays will trade Halladay…to the Phillies.
Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi is reminding everyone who will listen that he doesn’t absolutely need to trade Roy Halladay – which he doesn’t. But the bottom line is that he’ll probably get more in return for the “Doc” this season than he would next when Halladay is set to become a free agent after the 2010 season. And despite Ricciardi stating that he’s open to trading Halladay within the division, he’s not stupid. He’s not going to trade Halladay to the Red Sox or Yankees and risk becoming public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of Jays fans for not only getting rid of their best and most popular player, but also trading him to a division rival in the process. In the end, I think Ricciardi will trade Halladay to an NL team and my guess is that it will be Philadelphia that will eventually puts a package together to acquire him. Although they might balk at the $7 million that’s remaining on Halladay’s contract, the Phillies are built to win now and need more starting pitching to make another run at a World Series. They also have enough appealing prospects to entice Ricciardi to make a deal.

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