ESPN is reporting the Chicago Cubs have agreed to a $136 million, 8 year deal with Alfonso Soriano.
What does that mean for the Astros and the rest of the NL Central? To me, it means the Astros are now under the gun to sign Carlos Lee to at least a 5 year deal. I believe they can get away with paying him $13 million a year. With the example the Cubs have set, Lee is going to want a long term deal, and 5 years is the minimum the Astros should offer. I would feel safer with 6 though–no more than that. $78-80 million for 6 years is not really that bad and I believe Lee will outproduce Soriano.
Soriano strikes out at a rate of 1 of 4 plate appearances, Lee hardly ever strikes out. I’ve always been of the opinion that the Astros don’t need a high-priced and more glitzy version of Preston Wilson. I’m glad the Cubs signed him because as an Astros fan and a Chicago native, I’m going to enjoy watching all those K’s with runners in scoring position.
This signing is a good day for the Astros fans because it puts Tim Purpura on the hot seat and I expect an announcement of Carlos Lee’s signing in the next few days. We may end up overpaying for Lee, but at least it won’t be as bad as the scalping the Cubs got.
That still leaves holes at starting pitching and the dilemma at 3rd. I am of the opinion that the Astros should go ahead and pay Aubrey Huff the $7 million or so he’ll want and get a consistent, stable player who’s career average of .285 is nothing to sneeze at.
To get Clemens and Pettitte back, the Astros should go ahead and sign Houstonian Woody Williams quickly and then trade Lidge or Ensberg for Jake Westbrook or Jason Jennings. Trading Hirsh or Buchholz for Johnny Estrada would also be a very smart move.
Trading Lidge does leave a small hole in the bullpen, but I believe Qualls, Wheeler and Nieve can step right in. If the Astros can accomplish what I’ve laid out, it will not only have been a very productive off-season that will field a very good team on opening day 2007, but it will show all the fans who think extending Tim Purpura’s contract was a mistake, that Drayton McLane really does know what he’s doing and wants to put out a winning team on the field year in and year out.