MILWAUKEE -- The underperforming Marlins, desperate for a jump-start, traded Wednesday for veteran first baseman Carlos Lee to help rev up an offense that has found it hard to score runs for much of the season.
The Marlins acquired Lee, 36, from the Houston Astros for two minor-leaguers, third baseman Matt Dominguez and left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen. The Astros agreed to pick up the remaining $9 million, minus the pro-rated minimum, left on Lee’s contract.
Lee can become a free agent after the season.
But the Marlins were looking for instant help, and especially at first base, where Gaby Sanchez hit just .202 with three home runs a year after being named to the All-Star team. The Marlins optioned Sanchez to Triple A New Orleans to make room for Lee.
“He’s a great RBI man, a very good one,’’ said Ozzie Guillen, who managed Lee for one season in 2004 with the Chicago White Sox. “That’s what we need. We need a solid guy in the middle of the lineup.’’
Lee, who has hit 354 home runs in his 14 major-league seasons, has a limited no-trade clause and vetoed a trade to the Dodgers earlier in the week. But the Marlins are not on his 14-team, no-trade list.
The native of Panama, nicknamed El Caballo (“the horse’’), has been in gradual decline from a power standpoint, with his home run totals tapering off each year since 2007 when he hit 32. So far this season, Lee is hitting .286 with five homers.
“Still a dangerous hitter,’’ said Marlins general manager Michael Hill. “He’ll fit nicely in the middle of our lineup.’’
Hill said the Marlins first started talking to the Astros about Lee back in May when it became apparent that offense was becoming a concern. When the deal with the Dodgers fell through, Hill said the Marlins renewed their efforts to acquire Lee.
“We felt like it was a good time to infuse a veteran, professional, experienced bat into the lineup,’’ Hill said. “Unfortunately, first base has not been a productive position for us.’’
Sanchez has struggled all season. As it turned out, he had two hits on Wednesday, including a big, two-out, game-tying home run in the ninth. But it was too little, too late for the Miami native.
Sanchez was unavailable for comment after Wednesday’s game.
“I don’t think he should be blaming anybody,’’ Guillen said of Sanchez. “He should blame himself. We gave Gaby a lot of opportunities. The reason they make this move is obvious. We didn’t have much from production from him and, with Carlos, we hope to get more production.’’
Guillen said he plans to start Lee at first base on Thursday but wasn’t sure where he would hit in the order.
The Marlins gave up Dominguez, their first-round pick in 2007, and Rasmussen, a second-round choice in 2010. The slick-fielding Dominguez, who has spent the season at Triple A New New Orleans, has been a detriment offensively. Rasmussen was recently promoted to Double A Jacksonville and is rated by Baseball America as the organization’s No. 7-ranked prospect.
“It’s a huge move,’’ Guillen said. “I think the front office is showing people how much we want to win. They show how much we are about winning this year. They show the players they’re willing to do anything to help this ball club.’’