The Miami Marlins have traded two prospects, third baseman Matt Dominguez and left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen, to the Houston Astros, in exchange for 1B Carlos Lee, reports Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. It has also been reported that the Astros will pay the majority of what is still owed to Lee.
Dominguez was a first round pick back in 2007, and is back in Triple-A for the second straight season. He was expected to compete for a starting spot with the Marlins before the 2011 season, but was sent back to the minors, then this off-season was blocked at the hot corner by Hanley Ramirez and became expendable. Dominguez is one of the best defensive third basemen in the minors, with the only question being about the development of his bat. He's never hit more than 18 home runs in a season, giving him below-average power for a corner position, and has just a .252 career batting average in the minors. Still, his defensive abilities at third base are good enough that he should be able to hold on to a starting spot during the prime of his career, as long as he can be a league-average hitter. Dominguez will be added directly to the Astros major league roster, tweets Zachary Levine of The Houston Chronicle.
Rasmussen was a second round pick in 2010 out of UCLA, and has been steady, but not spectacular, in his professional career. In his first full season as a professional in 2011, Rasmussen went 12-10 for High-A Jupiter, with a 3.64 ERA. The Marlins sent him back to the level this season, however, likely due to a his below average control, which resulted in 4.3 walks per nine innings. Back in Jupiter this season, Rasmussen is 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA, although his FIP has dropped from 4.10 to 3.64 this season and his walks are down by over half a walk per nine innings, suggesting that he's actually pitching better this season. As a left-hander with a good curveball but below-average command, he appears to be heading towards a relief career, and at age 23, the Astros could choose to make that move to expedite his arrival in the majors.
We discussed the Marlins options for Dominguez earlier this season, and a trade for a bat makes sense for the Marlins to spend their most obvious trade chip on. If the reports are true that the Marlins are basically getting Lee for free (salary-wise), then that explains the additional prospect, but my immediate question was whether or not Lee was the best bat they could have obtained.
Lee has played no outfield this season, making him a bad first baseman with a .748 OPS. He's been a 0.2 WAR player this season, and there's no reason to believe that he's going to hit better in Miami than he did in Houston. The Marlins clearly have issues at first base with the struggles of Gaby Sanchez, but Logan Morrison's versatility means that the Marlins could look for a first baseman or left fielder to join their lineup. Better options would have included Alfonso Soriano, Josh Willingham, or Carlos Quentin.
Unfortunately, none of those players' teams represent a good fit for Dominguez and the Marlins as a trading partner.
The Cubs have reportedy been asking for significant return for most of their veterans, and Dominguez and Rasmussen might not have gotten the job done. Additionally, the Cubs have Josh Vitters in Triple-A, who is having his best offensive season yet and is finally playing like a former 3rd overall pick. I had the Twins pegged as a potential trade partner for the Marlins a month ago, but since then Trevor Plouffe has hit an obscene 14 home runs and has turned himself into one of the better third basemen in the American League. The Padres have had a backlog of third basemen in their farm system for the past few years, with Chase Headley blocking the likes of Jedd Gyorko, James Darnell and Logan Forsythe. Third base is one of the few positions the Padres have covered long term.
So despite the marginal upgrade that Lee provides for the Marlins, he does appear to be about the best move the team could have made in a deal that involved Dominguez. The bigger question for the Marlins is whether or not they should held on to Dominguez in hopes that he hit better and increased his value rather than trade one of their best barganing chips for a player that provides little value.