Carlos Lee What Miami Marlins Need


For all of the optimism built during the off-season by the Miami Marlins’ hiring of Ozzie Guillen as the new manager, the opening of a new stadium, and all of the expenditures in free agency, the team has been stagnant in the standings. Steady hitting has been  a weakness and that’s why the acquisition of Carlos Lee the other day could be just what the Marlins are after.

When the Houston Astros signed Lee to a rich, long-term contract in 2007, they believed he would be the cornerstone of a building effort. The Astros saw regular playoff appearances in their future. Instead, they got regular bottom-of-the-division finishes.

Although he is 36, Lee pretty much has been playing above the Astros’ level this season, the pop in his bat on display in flurries. Houston is not going anywhere this season (again), but the Marlins are still hopeful they can make some noise. So Houston shipping Lee out and the Marlins taking a chance on him all adds up.

So far this season Lee has five home runs and 29 RBIs and is hitting .287. He fills an immediate need at first base for the Marlins. The trade of Lee for prospects also reunites him with Guillen. They worked together with the Chicago White Sox in 2004 until Lee’s departure for Milwaukee, before he ended up with Houston.

“It’s a huge move, I think,” Guillen said of the Marlins going after Lee, “the front office showing people how much we want to win.”

It’s not clear how much Lee has left, but over a 14-year career he has blasted 354 homers, driven in 1,315 runs, and has a .286 lifetime average. He has been an All-Star three times. Lee has also been durable. He has played in 150 or more games 10 seasons, twice playing in all 162 games, and has appeared in more than 2,000 games. He has driven in 100 or more runs six times.

And Miami really needed the change. The arrival of Lee not only sent previous first baseman Gaby Sanchez to the bench, it sent him all of the way to AAA New Orleans, where the Marlins hope he can improve on his .202 season’s average.

Going into Thursday’s games, the Marlins were nine games behind the National League Eastern Division-leading Washington Nationals with a 39-42 record. While that might not be much to get excited about, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves are not very far ahead in the standings and have not show the type of consistency that would worry Marlins management.

The Nationals are one of the surprise teams of the year — although everyone recognized they would be better in 2012 — but they are not a super team, either. A real Marlins spurt could catch anyone in the division and that’s why bringing aboard Lee makes sense.

Lee could be the catalyst, the missing piece, for the Marlins to make a run. And, as Guillen said, it shows the fans the team is trying.