Lee could give Dodgers much-needed boost
Carlos Lee is a shadow of the player he once was. He's 36 years old, and on his way to career lows in home runs and doubles. His slugging and on-base percentages have also dropped in recent years.
It's an indication of how badly the Dodgers are struggling that even a diminished Carlos Lee would be a nice addition to their lineup. During this 1-10 free fall that has cost them first place in the National League West, the Dodgers have scored a total of 15 runs.
Yes, you read that correctly. That's 1.4 runs per game, and while the Dodgers desperately need Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier back in their lineup to be whole again, Carlos Lee would make them better.
Even without the solid offensive numbers he once had, he's still capable of getting on base. His .342 on-base percentage is third-best among the nine National League qualifying first basemen. So is his .290 batting average.
Meanwhile, James Loney is hitting .236 with two home runs in 220 at-bats. His OBP is 39 points lower than Carlos Lee's. At a time when the Giants and Diamondbacks have both gotten hot, the Dodgers can't wait any longer.
Lee probably wasn't their first choice, but given that he's an experienced hitter, a decent defensive first baseman and is in the final year of his contract, he made sense.
In the past, Lee has resisted overtures to waive his no-trade protection, and indication from several former teammates are that he will do so again. He has a ranch in South Texas, and seems comfortable playing out the string on his six-year, $100-million contract.
The Dodgers are hoping this time will be different, that he might be intrigued by the chance to finish the season in a pennant race.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow met with Lee on Saturday morning to gauge his interest on approving a trade to the Dodgers, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Lee confirmed the meeting, but was noncommital about whether or not he'd agree to go.
The Dodgers also asked about Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie, who is putting together a very nice season. But Luhnow would want at least a couple of top prospects to make that deal while the market for him is playing out.
Lee would cost the Dodgers more money, but less in terms of young talent that management is reluctant to part with.
He has had an interesting six seasons with the Astros. He joined them in 2006, a year after they were unable to sign Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran. The Astros were a year removed from the World Series and believed that they were one or two players from getting back.
To Astros fans, Lee came to symbolize the organization's fall from contention. He actually was the same player he'd always been, but perception is what it is. The Astros were done in by the retirements of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell and the decline of a once productive farm system.
Lee accepted the criticism with grace and a sense of humor. Even some of his teammates resented his big salary and seemingly carefree approach. If any of this bothered Lee, he never showed it.
The Astros got their money's worth during the first four seasons of the contract. Lee averaged 28 home runs and 102 RBIs, and had a respectable .833 OPS. Production became tougher with an increasingly depleted amount of talent around him.
His production has declined as he has aged. The Dodgers will find that he's still a tough out and that his easygoing personality plays well during the stress of a long season.
Whether a change of scenery energizes his production can only be answered if he agrees to join the Dodgers and be in a position where every game matters. His decision will come down to whether any of this interests him.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.