When Carlos Marmol beaned Derrek Lee on August 3 last season, fracturing his left wrist, I began wondering if it was the beginning of the end of Lee’s career?
Age was already taking its toll on the then 35-year-old who was hitting .246 for Baltimore before the Pirates came calling on July 30.
However, a switch back to the National League rejuvenated Lee from the start. He homered twice in his debut against the Cubs before Marmol’s errant pitch sidelined over the next month.
Karma appropriately took Lee’s side when he came off the DL on September 3 to again face his former mates at Wrigley Field.
He capped a 3-for-5 day at the plate with a game-winning, two-out grand slam in the top of the ninth–fittingly coming against Marmol.
Lee piled up three more hits the following day. He was hitting .412 with Pittsburgh, including a nine-game hitting streak.
In his following 23 contests since returning from the DL, Lee was hitting at a .349 clip with 5 HR and 15 RBI. All totaled, Lee played 28 games with Pittsburgh hitting .337 with 7 HR and 18 RBI–Hardly numbers that would signal the end of a career.
Yet, midway through the offseason the former Cub remains unsigned.
Lee’s late season offensive surge seemed to show his tank isn’t empty. And despite the fact he isn’t the Gold Glove defensemen he use to be, Derrek remains a more than serviceable first baseman with the mitt.
So what’s the hang-up?
Two things for certain are working against Lee this winter:
1.) Lee’s price tag (he made more than $7M last season).
2.) He’s just one of many 35 or older players looking for work in 2012.
Such may be the case, but given Lee’s poise, leadership and and strong finish in 2011, he’s sure to find work this season if he still wants to play. And given he’s just 41 hits shy of 2,000 for his career, what’s stopping him?
The Indians, Rays, Orioles, Mariners, A’s, Yankees and Red Sox all are searching for DH help. And you can add Detroit to the list with V-Mart’s season ending ACL injury.
There’s doesn’t appear to be a ‘perfect fit’ with any National League clubs, but I’ve thrown Milwaukee into the mix given Ryan Braun’s likely 50-game suspension and Lee’s familiarity with the Central Division.
Otherwise, here’s my best guess where D-Lee ends up.
H. New York