The Orioles signed Derrek Lee this past weekend, filling a vacancy at 1B that’s remained open since Rafael Palmeiro left after the 1998 season even though many first basemen have come and gone since then.
And you could still say that the vacancy remains open despite the Lee signing.
Lee will not be a long term fixture at 1B, but he shouldn’t embarrass the Orioles at the position the way Garrett Atkins did in 2010. Lee, 35, is coming off a down year in which he had a .774 OPS but was dealing with an injury for most of the season and missed 14 games.
In 2009, Lee had a .972 OPS with 35 home runs and 111 runs batted in. And while he probably won’t bounce back enough to replicate that season in ‘11, he should be able to give the Orioles a .850 OPS with around 30 homers. And that would be just fine for one year. Plus, with the additions of Mark Reynolds and JJ Hardy, the Orioles are making themselves a nice little slugging line-up if all goes according to plan.
In the end though, it’s a safe move by the Orioles. Lee most likely won’t be with the O’s in 2012, putting them back in 1999 when they were looking for someone to replace Palmeiro. But if you’re going to go with a one-year stop gap – better to do it with someone who is still playing at a high level in Lee than go with an all out risk like Garrett Atkins.
And what do you know…Derrek Lee is a former Cub to boot.