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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is Carlos Lee Worth $100,000,000.00?

No. No, he's not. But it's looking like there' s an excellent chance he's going to get it. In the wake of the Cubs breaking their piggy bank with Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136,000,000.00--are you freaking kidding me?), the buy-in for an impact free agent bat has spiraled out of control. The 'Stros allegedly have an offer of at least five years for $60,000,000.00 on the table to Lee, but word is that another team has offered five years for $70,000,000.00 and a third has offered a six year deal:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4353142.html

I'm going to get on record now about this. The Astros should NOT go any higher than five years and $75,000,000.00 for Carlos Lee. Frankly, even that hefty price tag terrifies me. If I was Uncle Drayton, I'd probably walk away from the bidding right now. Although you'll rarely hear me say that I agree with the Chronicle's John Lopez, I think he's right on the money with his column today:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4353193.html

While we may be dreaming that Vernon Wells or Carl Crawford are legitimate possibilities to be plying their trade at Minute Maid in April, I'd much rather have either of them than Carlos Lee, and I'd rather pay either of them bigger dollars than Carlos Lee. Neither will come cheap, but if the Jays or Rays are willing to take a package of Burke, Everett, Ensberg, and Hirsh, T-Poo has to make that deal in a second. If they want Patton instead of Hirsh, I'd have to think long and hard about it, but I still think I'd pull the trigger. Wells or Crawford for $15,000,000.00 per year sounds a whole lot better than Carlos Lee for that kind of money.

10 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

I'd deal Hirsh 20 times before I'd deal Patton. Hirsh did not impress me too much during his stint in Houston last summer, and Patton's ceiling is unquestionably higher.

If Juan Pierre's getting $9 million per season and the reports are true that Gary Matthews, Jr. is about to get $11M/year for five years from the Angels, then I think it's quite obvious that Carlos Lee is going to get over $15M/season for five or six years from somebody. The Astros have been handed an excuse that makes sense with regard to Lee and Soriano, as the figures associated with each of them are absurd and outrageous, but nevertheless, if the Astros end the offseason without swinging some sort of deal to add an impact bat, there will be no doubt that the combination of T-Poo's timidity and Drayton's tight purse strings are fatal to an offense.

Wed Nov 22, 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I don't really get the insistence "he's not worth X dollars!"

Isn't that determined by the market, which seems to be saying he is?

The Astros' problem is that they haven't produced enough young players who might command that kind of money (and locked them up long-term before they do).

They've done the latter with two players (Berkman and Oswalt) who, had they gotten loose on the free market, would have been the ones commanding such money.

So, maybe the better way to look at this is -- what if you sign Lee for the market rate, and he/Berkman/Oswalt form the nucleus of your club for years to come. Is that a good value proposition?

Just curious what ya'll think. You give these things more thought than the average fan.

Thu Nov 23, 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Point taken, Kevin. The market certainly indicates that Lee is worth whatever he gets, so the title of my post is at best misleading and at worst completely incorrect.

I think a better way to put it would have been...Should the Astros pay $100 mil for Carlos Lee's services? My answer would still be no. I just don't have a lot of faith that giving Lee that sort of long-term pact is a prudent decision. From what I've read, he's dangerously close to being a liability in the outfield, and the inability to shift him to DH or 1B means you're signing him purely for his bat. If T-Poo could add a younger player who is a comparable hitter and a better fielder, I'd much rather he explore those options. Wouldn't you rather have Wells or Crawford (instead of Lee) joining Berkman and Oswalt as the nucleus of the franchise for the next several seasons? I know I would. Neither of those guys may be available, but I'd certainly be bugging Toronto and Tampa Bay every day about what it would take to get a deal done.

The 'Stros need to add an impact hitter in the worst way. Should they fail to do so via free agency or trade, Scott's absolutely right that the offseason would have to be considered a failure.

Thu Nov 23, 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger G-Man said...

The problem with much of this analysis is that one "impact bat" is not going to make that much of a difference in a lineup with so many black holes.

Fri Nov 24, 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger G-Man said...

Here's a hypothetical - how many games would the Astros have won last year if Carlos Lee were their LFer?

I ran some numbers and came up with 84 games. I can provide the gory details if you like, and certainly there are limitations to this kind of analysis. Still, the question remains - does a guy who provides you with about 2 more wins a season worth 15 million a year?

Fri Nov 24, 01:18:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I'd love to see the gory details, G-Man. Like you said, I'm sure that there are limitations to the analysis, but my morbid curiosity demands that I see if the proof of T-Poo's biggest signing ever is in the pudding.

I'll be opining on the Lee and Williams deals at length in the next day or so, and I know that Scott has a thing or nine to say about them as well. Stay tuned.

Sat Nov 25, 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

It's not the dollar figure per se that determines whether the Lee signing is a good idea, but as Kevin suggests, it's the % of the 2007+ roster budget that Lee's contract amasses. If the Astros absorb Lee's $17M per season such that they continue to improve the other aspects of their team, of which there are plenty which demand immediate attention, then it's a very positive addition. If Lee's play deteriorates quickly or if the rest of the holes in the roster are not addressed as a result of Lee's salary, then it's a terrible signing (potentially). I think that the latter is more likely than the former, considering Drayton's historically tight purse strings and Lee's physical condition and suspect defense.

I agree with g-man that the impact that solely placing C-Lee in the #4 slot everyday would have on the team would likely be minimal. If you've got Biggio, Everett, Taveras, Ausmus and the pitcher's spot in the lineup every day, you're never going to score enough runs to win 90+ games, no matter who occupies the remaining four spots.

One item worth considering - if Rocket and Pettitte are persuaded to comeback for another season or two SOLELY on the fact that Lee has been added to the lineup, then that's an element of this deal that needs a lot of attention. If they would have come back regardless or if they do not come back in spite of Lee's addition, that diminishes the importance of adding Lee somewhat, doesn't it?

Mon Nov 27, 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, here are the gory details.

1. I plugged the Astros stats into Tom Tango's Run Expectancy Model (http://www.tangotiger.net/markov.html) to get an expected number of runs. The model said the Astros should have scored 760 runs.

2. Then I subtracted the stats from the Astros LFers and replaced them with Lee's stats. The difference between the Astros with Lee and the Astros without Lee was 29 runs (789 vs 760).

3. I plugged that difference into a pythagorean winning percentage equation and came up with a winning percentage of .517 and that works out to 2 games above .500. Since the Astros won 80 last year, adding two more games gets you 84.

Thu Nov 30, 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pythagorean winning percentage is explained here:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/faq.shtml#pyth

Thu Nov 30, 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Thanks, G-Man. Interesting stuff, and it makes you wonder whether the Lee signing will even be worth it in Year One, much less Year Six.

Wed Dec 06, 12:43:00 PM  

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