LEE LEAVES FOR LONE STAR STATE, MENCH HEADS TO MILWAUKEE
The Brewers sent Lee and top outfield prospect Nelson Cruz on Friday to the Texas Rangers for reliever Francisco Cordero, outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix and Minor League left-hander Julian Cordero.
I'm not going to dissect the trade except as how it relates to the Washington Nationals. And it relates very, very well.
First and foremost, Carlos Lee is no longer available, which instantly increases Alfonso Soriano's value. If a club wants to trade for a "game changer," then they're going to have to deal with Jim Bowden. That Lee went to a club that wasn't pursuing Soriano also helps the Nationals. The number of teams who were "very" interested the Nats' outfielder on Thursday will still be interested on Friday, especially those teams in the AL West. What is Bill Stoneman thinking right now in the Angels' front office? The division championship was up-for-grabs as of last night, but now the Rangers have a leg-up on both the Angels and Athletics, the two teams ahead of them in the standings. As it is, Texas is only two games out of first place. And even if the Rangers aren't helped by the trade, even if Carlos Lee pulls a "Preston Wilson" on Texas, the move nonetheless forces the hand of Bill Stoneman and Billy Beane to do "something," "anything" to keep up with the Rangers.
Personally, I don't think the trade helps the Rangers all that much. Mench has averaged 25 homers per year the past two seasons, and is on pace to hit .284-20-90 this year. Lee has only averaged five more homers a year than has Mench since 2004. If the two players are "similar" in terms of offense, then why the trade? Simple. Carlos Lee, like Alfonso Soriano, has the talent and ability to put a team on his back and carry them for two weeks at a time. When he's playing "typical" Carlos Lee baseball, he's no better than Kevin Mench. When he dons his cape and and blue leotards, however, he can help his team win twelve games in two weeks. If Lee gets hot, then it's a good trade. If he doesn't, then the Rangers won't be any better with Lee in the outfield.
Something else that Nationals' fans need to consider. The Brewers traded a rent-a-player with a real prospect in order to get value for their soon-to-be free agent. I think the Nationals will have to do the same. No matter how badly a team wants to win now, they cannot justify to their fans the trading away of a future all-star for someone who's going to be around for just two months. I think that Bowden is going to have to trade another player, a prospect, perhaps a young major leaguer, in order to get the talent level he's after in a trade. Soriano and Kory Casto? Soriano and Ryan Church? I'm afraid that's the only way this trade is going to happen.
Regardless, this trade helps the Nationals. Now let's see if Jim Bowden can use it to his advantage.
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