Carlos Lee (A.K.A. El Caballo) is not a very popular figure among Astros fans these days. Many feel that Lee has failed to live up to the six-year $100 million contract he signed with the Astros prior to the 2007 season. But in reality it has been a tale of two halves of that contract. Lee batted at least .300 and drove in 100 or more runs in each of the first three seasons he wore an Astros uniform. However, the last two seasons have been another story. Like most long-term MLB contracts Lee’s deal was back-loaded, meaning his salary was higher in the the later years of the contract. So the Astros got their money’s worth in the early years of the contract but took a beating in the last couple of years. Now the Astros are willing to pay half of Lee’s 2012 salary if they can find a team to trade with.
Lee’s name has been dragged through the mud by commenters at most Astros sites and message boards. I mean what can you say about Carlos Lee that hasn’t already been said? Stay with me. I think I’ve got this. El Caballo actually has a lot in common with my wife. They’re both a few pounds overweight and their best years are behind them. But that doesn’t make me love them any less. As long as they give me what I need at least once a week or so, I’m not complaining.
Seriously though, Lee has worked to become a decent fielder at his new position, first base. Lee was given a 2.5 defensive WAR rating by baseball-reference for the 2011 season. I also think he was better in leftfield than most people give him credit for. Many say he was lazy and didn’t hustle. I call it conserving energy. Any ball that reaches the leftfield corner is bound to result in a double, so why go all out? Lee took advantage when the opportunity presented itself, racking up ten outfield assists in 80 games last season.
The durable Lee will be the Astros 1B and cleanup hitter until further notice. If he can avoid another slow start Lee could draw some interest later in the season from teams looking to add a right-handed hitter.