It was fun while it lasted.
Wait, it’s over?
No, not quite yet.
I admit, I wasn’t excited when Drayton McLane pulled out the pocketbook and dumped $100M on Carlos Lee. I was positive that Lee would rack up a bunch of RBI, hit for some power and be a middle-of-the-order presence for the next 6 years – but I also knew that there were serious holes in Lee’s game that would have to be addressed on the backend of his contract.
I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
At the time, I was concerned that Carlos would get fat. I was worried he’d be falling all over himself in leftfield – glove in one hand, chili dog in the other. I was worried he’d become a huge gaping liability. And, at $18-19M per year, would he be worth a fraction of that amount in 2011 or 2012?
I was worried he’d be a National League DH.
This was a relationship that started out reasonably well, but we knew that it couldn’t last. He was Drayton’s second choice. In a way, Carlos Lee was the extremely promiscuous and overweight sister of the Homecoming Queen. The idea was promising, but ultimately reality set in. And, as the great philosopher Tupac Shakur once said, “you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife.”
That hoe was Carlos Lee.
That queen was Carlos Beltran.
Let me preface this by saying that Drayton McLane may be one of the most complex sports figures in Houston sports history. Drayton really really really really wanted to be a hero. When he said he wanted to be a champion – he meant it! Tragically, he went about it the wrong way. Drayton wanted to take the shortcuts. When Hunsicker left, Drayton realized that fans didn’t come to Minute Maid Park to see how the AAA team was doing, they came for the on-field product. Drayton knew that if he spent money at the Major League level, he could skimp on the draft, scouting and player development - and maybe save a penny. As seen in 2011, this practice proved to be fatal for the Houston Astros. He had built a paper castle.
Drayton McLane felt bad for being unable to sign Carlos Beltran in 2005. I think he was afraid of being exposed as a fraud. So in 2006, he irresponsibly offered the same money allocated for Beltran to Carlos Lee.
And, now, in 2012, we’re crossing our fingers that a new owner and a new general manager can clean up the mess.
Let’s be fair to Lee – he has been, as Dennis Green would say, exactly who we thought he was. There were times when an argument could be made that he was worth the money. He hit over .300 and had over 100 RBI in 3 of his 5 years in Houston. He got close to racking up over 100 last year. In a vacuum, Carlos Lee has been a good player. And he was/is a lot of fun.
In 2011, Lee moved from left to first base. This move can be directly credited to Wallace’s inability to hit and Lee’s inability to play leftfield – this was merely out of necessity, like the bowling alley attendant and her husband who works at the concession stand.
This, in my opinion, was one of the more interesting moves of 2011. Wallace, who was Wade’s crown jewel in the Oswalt deal, had to have played a key role in the new regime’s assessment of Wade’s performance. So, Wade’s decision to allow Mills to bench Wallace in lieu of Lee meant something was up. Surely, Ed Wade wouldn’t have dove on top of his own grenade. I touched on this in an early post. Wallace’s bad habits coupled with Lee’s less-than-stellar trade stock, triggered Lee’s move to first and may have allowed Ed Wade to give his replacement a huge advantage in marketing Carlos Lee.
In one swoop, Ed Wade wanted to send a message to a.) Brett Wallace and b.) trade Carlos Lee.
So, before I go any further, I was informed by one of my favorite tweeps, Jayne from whattheheckbobby, that my posts are ultra long and I should offer my readers a resting point. So how about a joke?
Q: What did the suspenders say to the pants?
A: “Sup, britches?”
No? Didn’t like it? Okay.
Ready to continue?
Now, in 2012, Ed Wade is soaking up the delicious weather in Philadelphia and the Houston Astros are, in more ways than one, stuck with Carlos Lee.
That’s not such a bad thing, is it?
Jeff Luhnow has come to the proverbial fork in the road in regards to Lee. As of now, Lee has little value. He has some value, but not much. So, if he were traded now and Jim Crane agreed to pick up the check, Carlos Lee could yield a decent prospect from a team looking to upgrade at 1B or DH. I’m not sure how many teams would feel Carlos Lee is an upgrade, so the market might not be hot enough to pique Luhnow’s interest. But, getting rid of Lee may still have value for the Astros – addition by subtraction.
Undoubtedly, having Carlos Lee on the roster causes personnel problems. As we saw this morning, Brian Bixler had a strong case for making the squad and probably would have had Carlos Lee not been in the picture. But, there again, my grandmother when have been my grandfather had she had a… well… you know.
But the personnel problems go a little deeper than Brian Bixler.
Say Lee was traded tomorrow, Luhnow would be able to plug Wallace in at 1B and let him take his licks until Singleton or whomever replaces him. We could dub 2012 “The Sink or Swim Year for Brett Wallce.” Perhaps he thrives. Maybe Wallace needs the assurance that come hell or highwater, he’s our guy. Regardless of his batting average, he’s guaranteed a spot – perhaps taking a little pressure off of him will do him some good.
I’m not saying it will or it won’t – just that it is a possibility.
Although Lee is most likely the best offensive player on the club, is keeping him around worth the extra 4 or 5 wins? Is hindering Wallace’s long-term growth worth the extra few wins playing Lee provides? …I’m not sure.
If Luhnow were to hold onto Lee, he might be able to acquire a much better prospect(s). Lee may get hot and guys around the league may get hurt – if that’s the case, Lee could be a valuable piece for a team looking to upgrade or replace… and they shall pay accordingly. In my opinion, that’s a reasonable gamble. If Luhnow is ready to give up on Wallace, why not start Lee and hope his value increases towards the trade deadline. As for Wallace, he can take the bus to Oklahoma City and hope there is still a spot for him when Lee is traded or Chris Johnson stumbles.
Over the next few months, you’re going to read a lot of talk about Carlos Lee, Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson. Jeff Luhnow has a very difficult job and has some serious decisions to make. However, it is not black and white. Whatever decision Jeff Luhnow makes, there will be people who will state that “this is the greatest move in the history of the franchise” and there will be people who question “when did we get Tim Purpura back?”
I’m not 100% sure what to do with Carlos Lee – and neither is anyone else. I doubt Jeff Luhnow is 100% sure what to do with him, either. But, this is the first obstacle of the Jeff Luhnow administration and it will certainly set the tone for his tenure in Houston.
Let’s cross our fingers.