In the fall of 2006, the Astros were in desperate need of a power hitting outfielder and signed Free Agent Carlos Lee to a six-year $100 million contract. His career with Houston has seen its ups and downs but, minus one season, he has been largely productive. The issues with Carlos had always been there and should have surprised no one, but fans point to Carlos as a symbol of what’s largely wrong with the franchise. The time has come to part ways with the now 1st baseman and the organization acknowledges it. The trouble had been finding a taker for Lee but there finally appears to be a market for the soon to be 36 year old Panamanian. Could the Astros actually recoup something for Lee and how much money will it take?
The main issue in trading Carlos has always been the massive contract he signed back in 2007 but rumors have begun to swirl that the Astros are actively looking for a trade partner and there are some teams interested. Moving Carlos would require a massive financial commitment from Jim Crane and possibly Lee’s approval, which is no given. Reports at the Winter meetings had the Astros willing to eat half of the 18.5 million owed to Carlos yet that might not be enough to move him. Reality is the Astros will need to be able to swallow anywhere from 15-18 million of Lee’s salary to receive anything of value in return. I would imagine for the right asset, Crane would make the deal much like the Cubs had to do with Carlos Zambrano.
Now the question is- which team could use Carlos to help fill their need? Could Tampa Bay be a player in this conversation or maybe even the Indians? Both clubs have been linked to Lee and make a nice fit given the Astros desire to take care of most of his salary. Neither franchise can afford to take on much salary so even without giving up anything of value, 9.5 million may be too rich for their blood. Both have pieces the Astros could use and make eating most of Lee’s salary plausible. A new contestant could and should be the Detroit Tigers as they just lost Victor Martinez for the year and are looking at affordable short term power options. While Lee’s power might not be as great as it once was, Carlos could bring some much needed pop to a suddenly thin lineup. The Tigers have options in free agency but Lee could be the most financially logical, in comparison to say Carlos Pena. The obvious connection between the three clubs would be Lee’s role as a DH and occasional 1st baseman and considering how last season played out, that might just be the ideal scenario for Carlos.
So it appears that Carlos “El Caballo” Lee is seeing his final days in Houston and soon will be a footnote in Astros’ history. Fans have been asking for that day to come for a few years now and some since the day he signed. The issue Jeff Luhnow faces is do you give him away for nothing or try to squeeze something of value out of a potential trade partner?