Brewers acquire big bat in Lee

By John Manuel

December 13, 2004

The White Sox’ dismantling of their outfield continued Monday. Already resigned to losing all-star Magglio Ordonez to free agency, they traded Carlos Lee to the Brewers for Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino and a player to be named.

Lee, 28, gives Milwaukee the righthanded power bat it missed after trading Richie Sexson last December. Geoff Jenkins led the Brewers with 27 homers last season, and their offense finished last in the NL in batting (.248), tied for last in homers (135) and 15th in runs (634). Meanwhile, Lee had the best season of his career, batting .305/.366/.525 with 31 homers, 99 RBIs, 11 steals and a franchise-record 28-game hitting streak. His speed and defensive ability are average, and he didn’t make an error in 148 games in left field. He’ll make $8 million in 2005, and his contract calls for a club option at $8.5 million or a $500,000 buyout in 2006. He’s a career .288/.340/.488 hitter with 152 homers and 552 RBIs in 880 games.

Podsednik, 28, was the runner-up in the National League rookie-of-the-year voting in 2003 and led the majors with 70 steals in 2004, but he otherwise saw his production decline significantly. He hit .244/.313/.364 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 154 games, and most telling was the fact that he scored just 84 runs. One Brewers official at the Winter Meetings said Podsednik tried to hit for power too frequently in 2004, which resulted in more homers (he hit nine in 2003) but a worse approach at the plate (his on-base percentage dipped 66 points). A good center fielder with an average arm, he may push Aaron Rowand to an outfield corner in Chicago. Podsednik signed a contract extension in May that will pay him $550,000 in 2005 and $1.9 million in 2006. In 327 major league games, he has hit .275/.343/.400 with 22 homers, 105 RBIs and 113 steals.

Vizcaino was the Brewers’ best setup man and the second key member of the bullpen traded in the last three days, following the deal that sent closer Dan Kolb to the Braves. The Brewers invested the money they saved in that move (which netted prized minor league righthander Jose Capellan) in this trade.

A 30-year-old righthander, Vizcaino had 21 holds in 2004, when he went 4-4, 3.75 in 73 appearances. Opponents hit .228 with 12 homers against him, and he struck out 63 and walked 24 in 72 innings. He works up in the strike zone with mid-90s fastballs that are hard to catch up to, but when hitters do he’s vulnerable to homers. His second pitch is a slider. After making $550,000 in 2004, he’s eligible for arbitration. Vizcaino’s big league record is 15-12, 4.52 with seven saves and 52 holds in 273 games.

Jan. 10 update: The Brewers completed the deal by sending minor league first baseman Travis Hinton to the White Sox. Hinton, 24, signed as a 13th-round pick out of Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC in 2001. Though he hit .304/.364/.509 with 22 homers and 88 RBIs in 136 games at high Class A High Desert in 2004, he was very old for the California League, which significantly favors hitters. He does have some bat speed, but he never hit for average in the past and is a below-average runner and defender. In 384 games as a pro, he has hit .271/.335/.429 with 42 homers and 210 RBIs.