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Cubs Trade For Derrek Lee Nov. 25, 2003

By bullpenbrian at 11.25.2012 9 comments.

Nov. 25, 2003: the Cubs trade minor leaguer Mike Nannini and Hee-Seop Choi to the Marlins for Derrek Lee.

For all the heat Jim Hendry received during his tenure as Cubs GM, this was one of his better deals.

Lee, then 28, had just wrapped up his first Gold Glove and a World Championship with Florida. He was in the prime of his career, his best seasons were still ahead and he would soon become the clubhouse leader in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Nannini never reached the majors and Choi finished his underwhelming career with the Dodgers two-years later.

Lee of course went on to have the best season of his career in 2005. He played 158-games, won the NL Batting Title (.335), Silver Slugger Award (46 HR, 107 RBI), his second Gold Glove and finished third in the MVP race (5.7 WAR).

It’s hard to know what happens in Lee’s career had he not broke his wrist in April of 2006 after colliding with Rafael Furcal near first base in Los Angeles. He returned from the injury two months later, but clearly wasn’t the same hitter as before the collision.

Lee’s recovering wrist appeared to cripple his power during the next two seasons, including the playoffs, before his return to form in 2009: .972 OPS, 35 HR, 111 RBI. Now 34, however, it proved the last glimpse of Lee as the power-hitting threat from four-years earlier.

Lee’s numbers offensively didn’t live up to his 5-year, $65 million contract in 2006 (in fact, the ink had yet to dry when the wrist injury occurred) but his value on defense and outstanding leadership arguably made him the face of the franchise until Starlin Castro‘s arrival in May of 2010.

Three months later Lee was traded to the Braves for three minor leaguers, none of which have yet to reach the big leagues. Lee’s seven years spent on the North Side were over and soon so was his major league career.

Nevertheless, Lee’s arrival in Chicago ultimately proved a landslide trade-win for Hendry and the Cubs.

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9 Comments

  1. Lee was one of my first favorite “regulars.” I have a soft spot for fringe/bench players (Sam Fuld, Reed Johnson, etc) but Derrek Lee was one of the early everyday I’d-actually-buy-his-jersey guys I adored.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      I agree. For many Cubs fans the lasting memory of Derrek Lee will be his professionalism, leadership and contributions off the field.

      That doesn’t diminish what Lee accomplished between the lines, which was notable, but it’s not the norm a player is beloved for his character as much as his statistics.

      Call me crazy, but with time I think Cubs fans will share similar feelings about Soriano. He won’t have lived up to his contract, but he’s been nothing short of a stand-up guy for the organization.

  2. I always viewed Derrek Lee as a guy who was respected greatly throughout baseball. Certainly one of my favorite Cubs of the last decade, loved they way he came to play everyday.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      @MFrost: Yep. Lee was the mark of a true pro.

      And as you mentioned, he came ready to play everyday…even when battling the injuries and his bad back.

      Solid dude. I’ll always think well of him as a Cub.

  3. If you would have said that before this season, I probably would have been cautious agreeing with you if we’re talking about Cubs fans as a whole. Even if he is garbage the last few years of his contract, I think this season really changed people’s minds. Him helping Castro, the discovery that he’s never really been trained in the outfield before, seeing him get behind this rebuilding thing, stepping up when there’s no other veterans left, hustling and defending above average in LF… these are things that either didn’t happen as much or weren’t as in the open. The fact that they coincided with productive season kind of brought those things into the light for some people, myself included. I never really liked the bad rap that Soriano got.

    Unless the Cubs get a plus contract in a Soriano deal, or can shed a majority of that money that they can actually use, I say keep him. No reason paying $35M in return for Felix Pie 2.0.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      @JustinJabs. Well said. And I’m with you, this past season did improve my opinion of Soriano. He was never a favorite of mine, but I was quick to point out he was never as bad as some Cubs fans made him out to be.

      There’s still a chance the Cubs move Soriano this offseason. If so, I’d be happy for him joining a contender. He’s earned the right and we all know his window for winning a ring is nearing its close.

      The biggest trouble with a Sori trade, however, is how do the Cubs replace his production in LF? Could be very a very interesting Winter Meetings for Team Theo if they find a taker for Alfonso…

  4. Marty Young says:

    Yes this was a great trade for Hendry there just was not enought of them.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      @Marty. No question (shaking my head yes). And too many deals from Hendry that didn’t go in the Cubs’ favor.

      I will say this for Hendry though, his job wasn’t made any easier working for the Tribune ownership that wanted big-splash moves in hopes of immediate results.

      Hendry’s tenure at GM wasn’t a complete failure (every GM makes mistakes) but pushing all his chips in during 2007 & ’08 ultimately became his undoing when the Cubs couldn’t close the deal in October.

      The Milton Bradley signing and Mike Quade hire were the final two nails in the coffin…game over.

  5. Marty Young says:

    I agree Brian the Tribune Co put pressure on Hendry to put a winning team on the field at any cost so they could fetch a bigger price when they put the team up for sale with out putting any thought to the future of the team.

    As result this is what we got the last few years prior to 2012 a bunch of old over paid players.

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