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Derrek Lee A Nice Fit For First Base And Tribe

| On 27, Nov 2011

This week’s signing of Grady Sizemore was a further indication of the Indians directions and priorities in their offseason strategy to building a 2012 contender. After the addition of Sizemore and starting pitcher Derek Lowe, the team has already committed about $70 million to their 2012 payroll.

Assuming the Indians stick to their “all-in” strategy and continue to place an emphasis on winning now, it would be unlikely to see the Tribe trade any high priced talent off their roster, only add to it. Also, considering the team’s revenue and attendance from 2011, it seems unlikely the Indians to extend their payroll past the $75-78 million plateau.

With the Indians shopping for a first baseman, and only $5-7 million to spend, it is obvious any dreams of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder donning those new Indians jerseys are not in the cards. Sadly, it is also an indication that any hopes of Michael Cuddyer or Aramis Ramirez are slim to none, too.

However, a good fit for the Indians remains in Derrek Lee. Lee, who is 36-years old, could be signed for a one year contract. After spending the nucleus of his career with the Chicago Cubs, Lee signed a one year, $7.25 million deal with the lowly Baltimore Orioles a year ago and was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31, with the hope of leading the Bucs to their first winning season since 1993. If Lee will sign in Baltimore, with no chance of a postseason birth, he would certainly consider the up and coming Cleveland Indians.

Lee provides a right handed bat the Indians desperately need. Currently their projected Opening Day lineup does not have a single right handed bat. Lee, who hit .267, with 19 home runs and 59 RBI, in 113 games last season, would fit nicely in the order around the sixth or seventh spot. He’s also a player who would benefit from the occasional day off when Carlos Santana would move to first base and Lou Marson behind the plate.

Defensively, Lee is very strong and would help shore a shaky infield defense. A quality defensive first baseman seems a must considering the continuing defensive development of Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis, while having three ground ball pitchers in the starting rotation. Lee won Gold Gloves in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and can still strengthen the young infield.

Finally, Lee’s greatest contribution to the Indians could be his leadership and experience. Lee has appeared in the postseason three times, including a World Series ring in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Lee’s Marlins were a young, upstart team, much like the current Tribe, and came from down 3-1 in the National League Championship Series to advance and upset a heavily favored New York Yankees.

It’s a free agent signing that could be a perfect fit for the Tribe, and probably the right price.

Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images

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