Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ringolsby just can't help himself

Any time Tracy Ringolsby writes a Top Mistakes column, he just can't help but take a shot at the Astros. And today is no different.

In his Top 10 Free Agent Blunders, the Astros have a guy on the list. Who is it?

Carlos Lee: Signed to six-year, $100 million contract prior to 2007. On a team that is trying to cut costs -- and has done it at the expense of scouting and player development -- Lee is an expensive hood ornament. He's a one-dimensional player -- a run producer, and he has 305 RBI in three years with Houston -- but the total package is a negative. Not only is he defensive deficient, but he is a poster boy for a lack of hustle, and he's hauling in $55.5 million the next three years, Lee, combined with Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, account for $48 million of whatever payroll the Astros have in 2010.

I'll take issue with this. Sure, it would be nice to have an extra $18 million lying around, but Carlos Lee's defensive liability is minimized by the ground he doesn't have to cover in the small left-field at Minute Maid Park. And he sure doesn't belong on the same list as Milton Bradley, Barry Zito, Dontrelle Willis, and Carlos Silva.

In his three seasons in Houston, Lee has hit .305/.354/.524 with 321 RBI, 163K:131BB in 437 games. If Lee is on this list, then Berkman (and I know, he doesn't qualify as a free-agent blunder) should be held accountable for his lack of hustle and attitude issues.

To compare, Gary Matthews Jr (also on the list), has hit .248/.325/.383 with 168 RBI, 271K:140BB in 370 games.

And FanGraphs says that, over the three years Lee has been in Houston, his value has been worth a total $39.6 million, while making $41.5 million - a difference of $1.9 million, on the wrong side. So no, he wasn't worth the $18.5 million he made in 2009, but he has produced about on par for his salary to date. Is Lee a defensive liability? Absolutely. Is he a blunder? Absolutely not.