June 01, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros infielder Carlos Lee (45) during a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
Like I did Wednesday with Brett Myers, today I'm going to look at the top five possible suitors for Carlos Lee. Again, these aren't where he has the best chance of going, but the teams with the biggest need for a first basemen. This list was a lot easier to put together than the list for Myers, because of sample size and position players tend to be a lot easier to analyze and predict future success.
For the season Carlos Lee has a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .330 which is right around league average for first basemen. His .298 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is only a little bit higher than his career .285 BABIP. ZiPS, a forecasting stat, predicts Lee will finish the season with a .329 wOBA, so teams have little to fear in his production possibly falling off.
I was a little surprised to find seven teams that had production below what Lee was providing the Astros. The two teams that did not make the list are the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers, the latter of which apparently had discussions with the Astros regarding Lee in Spring Training. Both teams are the least needy on the list and adding Lee would have net them very little gain.
For Philadelphia they have Ty Wiggington, Jim Thome and John Mayberry as options. Mayberry hasn't been hitting but Wiggington and Thome have, so adding Lee would be pointless for them. Next, Milwaukee has had some trouble filling the production at first base lost with the departure of Prince Fielder, however, the solution appears to be Cory Hart who is hitting for a .347 wOBA on the season. They also have Travis Ishikawa who is currently hitting for a .345 wOBA, making acquiring Lee a pointless exercise for the Brewers.
So what are the best landing spots for on the biggest (literally) players available on the trade market? Hit the jump to find out.
5) New York Mets - 33-29
Again like Wednesday when we covered possible landing locations for Brett Myers, the Mets could use help at first base where Ike Davis has struggled to replicate his 2010 season when he hit for a .345 wOBA. Davis was limited to only 149 plate appearances last year, but in those plate appearances he had a .391 wOBA.
It's a bit baffling why Davis is only hitting for a .255 wOBA this season. His BABIP is .228 this season, so it could be a luck issue or possibly even a health issue. Davis dealt with a bout of valley fever this Spring so that and knocking off the rust from last year may be having an affect on his numbers this year. It does appear the Mets are willing to allow him to work through his problems at the Major League level so acquiring Lee might not even be on the table.
Not that the Mets want a 36 year old first basemen who's going to give them league average offense at first base. What may work in the Astros favor is that if the Mets feel like they can grab a playoff spot and Davis hasn't figured it out yet, they could make a play for Lee.
4) San Francisco Giants - 35-27
This team was a lot more viable prior to the Astros series with Brandon Belt struggling to start the year. He currently has a .326 wOBA and a .303 BABIP in 153 plate appearances. He's recently only inflated those numbers by homering in three straight days against the Astros. Prior to this latest Astros series he hadn't hit a ball out of the park in 61 games.
How well Belt plays over the next few weeks could determine how willing the Giants are to trading for a player like Lee. They're definitely a team to keep an eye on in the Lee market.
3) Miami Marlins - 32-30
The Marlins have gotten very little production out of the first base position despite having some younger options in Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrision. Both players were in the lineup to start the year with Sanchez at first and Morrision in left field. Sanchez, with a .227 wOBA, was demoted recently leading to the Marlins moving Morrison to first base where he probably should be. With a, .301 wOBA, Morrison isn't hitting that much better, but is providing more power and a better walk rate.
Sanchez has returned to the big league club, however, he is still not hitting and currently flirting with the Mendoza line. Morrison has been moved back into left field and appears to be hitting a little better. Lee is not the greatest fit here; a better idea would be for the Marlins to acquire an outfielder and move Morrison back to first. If the Marlins find a lack of options in that area though they could look at possibly acquiring Lee.
2) Los Angeles Dodgers - 40-23
Houston native James Loney has struggled to start the season. His wOBA of .289 is well below his career wOBA of .334. His BABIP, .289, is also well below his career mark of .309. He is still walking at an average clip, and providing solid defense so I don't know that the Dodgers are ready to give up on him. Still if he struggles Carlos Lee could be in play for a team that has recently taken on new ownership that wants to make the Dodgers a winning organization.
One of the kinks in this deal is that the Dodgers are on Lee's veto list according to Ken Rosenthal. The kicker is that Rosenthal says that his friends have said that he may be willing to wave his veto powers.
1) Cleveland Indians - 32-28
Unlike the other four teams on the list the Indians are in desperate need of a first basemen period. Casey Kotchman is the current regular first basemen, and he has a .271 wOBA with a .224 BABIP. The other player they've given a small amount of time to has been Matt LaPorta who has a .160 wOBA in 11 plate appearances. LaPorta, now 27, has failed to cash in on the potential that made him a top 100 prospect in 2008 and 2009.
There's a definite need for help at first base, however, the bigger question for Cleveland is do they have a shot at the post season? Their Pythagorean record has them at 28-34, similar to the Astros Pythagorean 28-35 record, so unless they start scoring a ton of runs it's unlikely they'll make the post season. Maybe a package of Lee and Wandy Rodriguez would help the Indians right there Pythagorean record and overtake the Chicago White Sox.