Carlos Lee era is over in Houston

Only days after they were unable to complete a deal to send Carlos Lee to the Dodgers, the Astros on Wednesday pulled off a trade to send the 36-year-old veteran to the Marlins. The Astros will get Minor League third baseman Matt Dominguez and left-hander Rob Rasmussen in return.

Dominguez will report to the Astros on Thursday in Pittsburgh, while Rasmussen will report to Double-A Corpus Christi.

“Carlos has been an important part of our team and our community in Houston for almost six seasons and he will be missed,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We made this move with an eye towards the future, and are very excited about adding Dominguez and Rasmussen to our talent base. Both players have a bright future.”

Lee was pulled from the Astros’ loss to the Pirates at PNC Park in the middle of the seventh inning Wednesday, and by the time reporters were allowed in the clubhouse following the game his locker had been cleaned out and he was gone.

The move paves the way for Brett Wallace to be called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City and finish the year at first base. Wallace has been putting up big numbers in the Minors and performed well in 11 games with the Astros earlier this month, hitting .333 with two homers and four RBIs.

The trade comes as no surprise for an Astros team that’s rebuilding and looking to add more young players. Lee was in the final year of a six-year, $100-million contract and represented one of the last holdovers from an era when the Astros were still competing for playoff spots on yearly basis.

Lee was having poorest offensive showing with the Astros, hitting .287 with only five home runs and 29 RBIs in 66 games. His power has dropped dramatically from the first four years of his contract when he averaged more than 30 homers and drove in more than 100 runs.

It’s not known if the Marlins are paying any of the roughly $9 million Lee is owed this year.

The Astros nearly sent Lee to the Dodgers last weekend and were awaiting his approval on the deal before the Dodgers backed out. Lee has a limited no-trade clause, which means there are 14 teams to which his contract can’t be assigned. The Marlins were not on his list, so he couldn’t block the trade.

Barely a year removed from reaching the World Series in 2005, the Astros signed Lee the day after Thanksgiving in 2006 with hopes he could get them over the hump. A veteran club that included Craig Biggio, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman had a winning record only once – 86-75 in 2008 – after signing Lee and began to sudden show its age.

The Astros signaled they were rebuilding beginning in 2010 when they traded Oswalt and Berkman, two of the most accomplished players in franchise history, and last year moved up-and-coming outfielder Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn for more prospects.

Lee was moved from left field to first base after Berkman was traded.

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow took over last December and has said he wants to continue to infuse young talent into an increasingly improving Minor League system. Luhnow will probably also try to move veteran starter Wandy Rodriguez and veteran pitcher Brett Myers prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Dominguez was the Marlins 12th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

The third baseman out of Chatsworth High School near Los Angeles, Dominguez is regarded as a standout defensive player who has had his struggles at the plate. In 78 games with Triple-A New Orleans, the 23-year-old batted .234 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 78 games.

When the Marlins moved Hanley Ramirez to third base, it blocked Dominguez’s path to the big leagues.

Rasmussen, a 23-year-old lefty, was 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 16 starts at Class A Jupiter. He was recently promoted to Double-A. The Marlins selected Rasmussen in the second round out of UCLA in 2010.

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