ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves bulked up for the playoff race Wednesday, acquiring first baseman Derrek Lee from the Chicago Cubs.
The Braves sent three minor league pitchers to the Cubs, none of them considered top-level prospects.
Atlanta already had Troy Glaus at first base but, in an unexpected move, the team announced he'll go on the 15-day disabled list. General manager Frank Wren wants Glaus to rest his legs for a week, then head to Triple-A Gwinnett to get in some work at his former position, third base.
Presumably, the Braves envision a lineup late in the season, and the playoffs, that could include both Lee and Glaus, though All-Star Martin Prado is still expected to get most of the work at third base in place of injured Chipper Jones.
As for Lee, he just wants another shot at the World Series. He played on Florida's championship team in 2003 before moving to Chicago, where he put up some big numbers over seven seasons, including a career-best 46 homers in '05, but never got back to the Series.
Lee turned down a trade to the Los Angeles Angels last month, exercising his rights as a 10-year veteran who had played at least five years with the same team. But he felt more comfortable coming to Atlanta, which led the NL East by 2 ½ games going into Wednesday's game against Washington and is pushing hard for its first playoff appearance in five years.
"The main thing is we've got six weeks to go and Atlanta's in first place," Lee said during a news conference in Chicago. "They're playing great baseball. It just felt right. A chance to go to the postseason, it's hard to pass up."
The Braves were looking for any offensive help they can get after losing Jones to a season-ending knee injury last week. If the 34-year-old Lee is healthy, he'll be a big boost to the lineup; just last season, he hit .306 with 35 homers and 111 RBIs.
"It doesn't get any better," Jones said. "Outstanding character guy. Outstanding player. Defensively at first base, he's top notch. And he gives us another right-handed presence in the middle of our lineup."
Lee has put up disappointing numbers in the final season of his five-year, $65 million contract, hitting .251 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. He's also been bothered by a sore back that kept him out of the Cubs' game Wednesday against San Diego.
Last weekend, though, he hit four homers in a three-game series at St. Louis.
"I've been watching him swinging the bat over the past couple of weeks," Jones said. "He started swinging with power. The only thing that worries me a little bit is he's a little gimpy right now."
The Braves also received cash considerations in the deal. That's probably to cover some of the nearly $3.3 million that Lee is still owed this season.
Prado came off the disabled list Tuesday and moved over to third to fill in for Jones, with Omar Infante taking over at second base. By acquiring Lee, the Braves have expanded their roster options as they try to hold off the two-time defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies.
The 34-year-old Glaus put up solid numbers (.239, 16 homers, 70 RBIs) but the Braves said his body is worn down from the grind of the season, especially since he missed most of last year recovering from shoulder surgery. He got off to a slow start, then hit .330 with six homers and 28 RBIs in May to earn NL player of the month honors.
Glaus jammed his left knee in a victory over the Dodgers on Monday night, speeding up the need to acquire additional offensive help.
"His legs just didn't hold up," Wren said, though he was quick to praise Glaus' contribution. "Quite frankly, we're not in position to make a trade like this without Troy Glaus. He carried us."
Lee showed plenty of power against the Cardinals last weekend, but a bulging disc in his lower back is a concern. He had to come out in the final game of the series and received an injection to relieve the pain. He had planned to sit out a three-game series against San Diego and hopefully return by the upcoming weekend when, in an interesting twist, the Braves will be in Chicago to take on the Cubs.
Instead of playing against the Braves, Lee will wait for his new team to arrive at Wrigley Field, then switch uniforms.
"I'll probably have to stop myself from running to this dugout," said Lee, standing on the Cubs side for the final time. "It'll be different but it'll be exciting. Sometimes it's even more fun to compete against your friends because you can talk a little trash afterward."
Lee rejected the proposed deal with the Angels before the July 31 trade deadline, not wanting to go to a team that had a lot of ground to make up in the AL West.
"The timing just didn't seem right then," Lee said. "The Angels were close but not right there."
When presented with a chance to join the Braves, Lee was more amenable. Wren talked Sunday with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who proposed the deal to Lee on the flight home from St. Louis. After talking it over with his wife, Lee agreed to go to Atlanta.
Limping to the finish of another disappointing season, the fifth-place Cubs had little to lose by dealing Lee. They already had traded pitcher Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers, and sent infielder Mike Fontenot to San Francisco.
Chicago acquired right-handers Robinson Lopez and Tyrelle Harris and left-hander Jeffrey Lorick from the Braves. Lopez and Lorick were both playing at Class A Rome, while Harris has pitched at three levels this season, most recently for Double-A Mississippi.
"None of us thought this was going to happen this year. We really didn't," Hendry said. "It will be good for (Lee) and from that regard, I'm happy for him. But the overall situation we're in kind of makes us all stumble between miserable and sad every day."
Lee said he'll miss Chicago.
"I had a great time here. I grew as a player, grew as a person," he said. "We didn't achieve the ultimate goal. Coming here, it just seemed like we were going to get a championship, so that part's disappointing. But the rest of my experience was nothing but positive."
Associated Press freelance writer Mike Nadel in Chicago contributed to this report.