Okay, so there's been some chatter generated from looking at who would fit in a trade with the Braves, should the Astros be a serious suitor for the services of Rafael Soriano.
As we all know, payroll is a major deal for the Astros, so even with the raise Pence will get in arbitration, there would be a shift in the Braves favor of at least $3 million. That probably won't cut it on Houston's end.
Let's also consider the possibility that, if the Astros trade for Soriano, that's going to do it for LaHawk's time in Houston, saving $4-5 million. However, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Anonymous in the comments section proposed a Carlos Lee for Rafael Soriano and Derek Lowe trade. And then the Bleacher Report said basically the same thing.
Now, let's look at this from a payroll standpoint:
Carlos Lee = $18.5 million (and has $55.5m remaining until 2012)
Derek Lowe = $15 million (and has $45m remaining until 2012)
Rafael Soriano = $8 million
So that's a difference of $4.5m. Factor in that Ed Wade probably wouldn't be bringing back LaHawk, and we're almost at a wash.
Now we all know the kind of trouble the Astros have in getting runners from home plate, all the way around those bases, and back again. You cannot deny that Lee's offense has been solid, though he is trending towards a further regression. However, is Brian Bogusevic or Yordany Ramirez or Jason Bourgeois ready to make the jump to a .300 hitter who drives in 100 runs and strikes out less than 100 times a year?
What about Derek Lowe? As Sabernomics' J.C. Bradbury says, "Derek Lowe may be overpaid, but he's not Carlos Lee overpaid." FanGraphs put Lowe's value in 2009 at $12m, $3m less than his salary.
Don't forget he'd have to waive a full no-trade clause, anyway. On November 11 Ed Wade was quoted as saying that Lee had "made it very, very clear that he does not want to go anywhere."
So if the Astros are going to shed Carlos Lee's contract, I'd like to see a little more come back than Derek Lowe.