Yesterday’s Derrek Lee trade was a move most thought wouldn’t happen – after all, Lee had rejected a trade just a couple weeks before. But believing that the Braves were a better situation than the Angels, for a variety of reasons, Lee approved the trade, which netted the Cubs three pitching prospects.
To be certain, none of the prospects is top tier – nor should we have expected them to be. Lee is a free agent after this year, is mired in a terrible season, and is going to be a Brave for just a month and a half. Still, the Cubs ate a bit of Lee’s remaining salary, and the return is actually more than I thought they’d get.
The centerpiece of the deal from the Cubs’ perspective is almost certainly 19-year-old right-hander Robinson Lopez. The youngster, a free agent signee out of the Dominican Republic, is already throwing at full-season A ball. After a dominating campaign in rookie ball last year, Lopez has been more mediocre at the higher level – sporting a 4.37 ERA and striking out 70 in just over 92 innings. His 1.37 WHIP is just ok. He’s split the season as a starter and a reliever, and actually excelled as a reliever (2.61 ERA and 27 Ks in 20.2 innings). But his upside is as a front-half starter considering his low-90s fastball and above average curve at such a young age.
Righty Tyrelle Harris is the oldest of the players in the deal (23), and is also the most advanced (AA). Since being promoted to AA mid-season, he’s absolutely dominated: 1.46 ERA and 11 Ks in 12.1 innings. This is his first full season in professional ball, as he was drafted as a senior out of Tennessee in 2009 in the 19th round. Overall, his minor league numbers since being drafted are excellent, but his low-90s fastball and average stuff suggest his upside is as a middle reliever. Also: his questionable past has come up here and there on the Internets – he was apparently accused of slapping a girl when he was in college (he says she slapped him). Obviously we’re not here to judge without knowing the whole story, but it could be a bit of a red flag.
Jeffrey Lorick was the Braves’ 20th round pick out of Virginia last year, and he’s absolutely torn up A ball this year – a 2.24 ERA in over 52 innings between two levels. But he’s 22, and already very advanced as a pitcher, so those numbers are deceptive. Lorick is a lefty reliever, who’s upside is somewhere between lefty specialist and run-of-the-mill middle reliever.
I can’t help but think the return here mirrors what the Cubs got for Mark DeRosa last year – a couple of older, decent possible bullpenners (Jeff Stevens and John Gaub), and a young, very raw, but very high upside starter (Chris Archer). Given that Archer has pitched himself into the discussion of the best pitchers in the Cubs’ system, I think we’d all be thrilled if this trade works out as well as that one did.