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The Miami Marlins and Houston Astros agreed to a deal Wednesday that sends veteran first-baseman Carlos Lee to Miami in return for a pair of prospects. Buster Olney of ESPN first reported the deal, the team made an official announcement after defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 on Wednesday.
In the final year of a six-year, $100 million contract, Lee is hitting .286 with 5 home runs and 29 RBI. Gaby Sanchez, Miami's current first-baseman, is hitting .194 with 2 home runs and 16 RBI. Lee will jump ahead of Sanchez on the depth chart, with Miami sending Sanchez (a 2011 All-Star) back to Triple-A New Orleans after Wednesday's game to make room for Lee.
Lee is a career .286 hitter with a .489 slugging percentage, and for a stretch from his rookie season in 1999 to 2009 he slugged over .450 every season, with a career high .569 slugging percentage in 2008. His power numbers have dipped since hitting .300 with 26 home runs in 2009, but he is still a better option at the plate than any of Miami's other first-basemen.
The Marlins will send a pair of minor leaguers, 3B Matt Dominguez and LHP Rob Rasmussen, to Houston in return for Lee. Dominguez was the team's first-round draft pick in 2007, but he has failed thus far to show the same competence at the plate as he does on defense. He is hitting .234 in New Orleans this season.
When the Marlins signed Jose Reyes over the winter and moved Hanley Ramirez to third-base, it appeared Dominguez' days in the organization were numbered. Rasmussen was not as hyped a prospect as Dominguez, but was a second-round pick in 2010. He was recently promoted to Double-A after going 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA in Single-A this season.
The Astros will also pick up the remainder of Lee's $18.5 million salary this season, save for the pro-rated minimum. Lee had a 14-team no-trade list in his Astros contract, but the Marlins were not on it. He reportedly vetoed a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this week.
The Marlins have struggled mightily at the plate during stretches of this season, and hope Lee can put together a solid second half before he tries to grab one last big contract as a free agent this winter. The Marlins are 13th in the National League in runs per game and 14th in batting average. No team in the majors has a lower OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) from its first-basemen than the Marlins.