Random Musings from Wrigley Field's Upper Deck

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Cubs traded Hee Seop Choi and a player to be named later (side note: it appears there have never been any major league players named "Later") to Florida for Derek Lee.

I'm ambivalent about this trade. I like Choi a lot, although he had his problems this year, particularly in the second half. As others have noted, this deal smells like one engineered by Dusty Baker rather than Jim Hendry, especially given that a young rookie is being traded for an older, arbitration-eligible player. Still, Choi's performance clearly was declining (although expected to recover somewhat next year), and Lee is a very solid first baseman.

Lee's career numbers:
0.264 BA
0.353 OBP
0.467 SLG
0.820 OPS

In every case, Lee is at or above the park-adjusted league average. He also appears to be playing even better than these numbers would indicate, as he has achieved equal to or greater than his current career average in each category in each of the last four seasons (except for a 0.346 OBP in 2001). If he plays at his career average, we can expect about 25 home runs from Lee next year, which we likely wouldn't get from Choi. Lee also won the Gold Glove at first base this year, committing only five errors. It seems that this trade really improves the Cubs next year.

The trade-off? The future. Choi likely will improve as a player, and while he won't perform at Lee's level next year, he has a chance to be just as good at some point. Lee is going to cost some major bucks (speculation is that he will make around $5 million next year), while Choi was still pretty cheap, at least for another couple years. While Lee is an upgrade at first base in 2004, he may not have been a necessary upgrade at that price - the money might have been better spent filling the Cubs' holes in the middle infield, bench, and (especially) bullpen.

Overall, I'll give this trade a provisional grade of B, with final judgment reserved for midseason next year, once we get a chance to see how each player performs in his new home.

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