MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Carlos Lee Trades to Cut Payroll for the Houston Astros

Brandon CroceAnalyst IJanuary 25, 2011

MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Carlos Lee Trades to Cut Payroll for the Houston Astros

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    The Houston Astros about halfway through last season decided to enter rebuilding mode by trading both Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.

    However, there is one more expensive piece currently on the team that could offer some quality pieces in return to help the rebuilding process, and that is Carlos Lee.

    El Caballo does have some things working against him that may make a trade tougher for the Astros. He is getting up there in age and would struggle in the field. He also will be making $19 million this season. He is on the downside of his career and probably wouldn't be able to bring top talent in return.

    However, he could still contribute to a team for another two to three years, playing DH for a team that is looking for a power hitter for the middle of its lineup. Here are 10 trades that would make sense for both teams.

10. Cleveland Indians

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    Cleveland Receives: OF Carlos Lee and cash considerations

    Houston Receives: OF Michael Brantley

    Why Cleveland does this trade: They don't have much power in the middle of their lineup, and Travis Hafner is not the same player he was a few years ago. Lee will help provide some protection in the lineup for Grady Sizemore, as well as take some pressure off Matt LaPorta.

    The downside of this trade for the Astros is that with Cleveland being a small-market team, they will have to pay a majority of Lee's salary for the Indians to even consider it.

    Why Houston does this trade: They are getting a young outfielder in Brantley who has major league experience playing last season for an injured Grady Sizemore and then for an injured Shin-Soo Choo. He hit .246 with three HRs and 22 RBI in 72 games. In the minors last season he hit .319 with four HRs and 29 RBI in 67 games for the Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers.

    He is a guy who the Astros can pair with Michael Bourn at the top of the order and provide a pretty fast one-two punch to lead off the order.

9. New York Yankees

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    New York Receives: OF Carlos Lee

    Houston Receives: OF Brett Gardner and C Francisco Cervelli

    Why New York does this trade: The New York Yankees were not able to add any depth in their starting rotation and realize they will have to put up a lot of runs to have a chance to win. Adding Carlos Lee at the DH spot or even having him play in LF will be the added punch they need in an already impressive lineup that includes Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.

    If Lee were to go to the Yankees and play in Yankee Stadium, left field is short enough that he could play out in the field if necessary. If he does play DH, he would provide more power than Jorge Posada, and Posada could move to backup catcher behind Russell Martin and pinch-hit off the bench in late-inning situations.

    Why Houston does this trade: New York is one of the teams that could take on Carlos Lee's full salary without Houston having to pay for part of it. The Astros would be getting a young outfielder who could provide some speed up at the top of the order with Michael Bourn and provide RBI opportunities for Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Hunter Pence.

    They would also be getting a young catcher to back up Jason Castro and be able to step in if Castro struggles at some point during the season.

8. Minnesota Twins

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    Minnesota Receives: OF Carlos Lee and cash considerations

    Houston Receives: OF Michael Cuddyer

    Why Minnesota does this trade: There are questions about Justin Morneau's health entering this upcoming season, and if Morneau is not able to go, Lee would be a great replacement to help make up for some of that lost production. They would able to slide Jason Kubel into right field for Michael Cuddyer, play Jim Thome at first base if Morneau is not able to go, and play Carlos Lee at DH.

    If Morneau is able to come back and be healthy at the start of the season, this is still a good move, as it provides a scary 3-4-5 in the middle of the Twins lineup with Joe Mauer, Morneau and Lee. They will also be able to move one of the team's bigger contracts in Cuddyer, who will make over $9 million next year. For this trade to work, Houston would once again have to pay a portion of Lee's contract.

    Why Houston does this trade: They are able to move Carlos Lee's contract and bring in a player who is about three years younger than Lee and provides them with more flexibility in their lineup due to his ability to play multiple positions. Last season, Cuddyer split his playing time between first base and right field, but he would be able to transition to the short left field of Minute Maid Park.

    Last year, Cuddyer hit .271 with 14 HRs and 81 RBI, which was a down year for him compared to 2009, when he hit .276 with 32 HRs and 94 RBI. I think with a change to the NL and hitting at Minute Maid Park, Cuddyer would have a bounce-back year closer to his 2009 numbers.

7. Baltimore Orioles

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    Baltimore Receives: OF Carlos Lee

    Houston Receives: OF Nolan Reimold and RP Mike Gonzalez

    Why Baltimore does this trade: They add another power hitter to what has the potential to be a good batting lineup next season. This offseason they have added Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee to a lineup with players who have a lot of untapped potential in Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Adding a proven power hitter like Lee would take some pressure off these young hitters.

    Even though Luke Scott had a good year at DH for Baltimore, I think with Lee playing DH he could be in line for a bounce-back year, as he won't be required to play the field and would be able to stay stronger for a whole season. Another positive is that this provides some insurance for Derrek Lee, who has not been able to stay healthy for a few years now.

    Why Houston does this trade: They once again are getting a young outfielder in this trade. Nolan Reimold did not have the year that many expected after a solid rookie season in 2009, when he hit. 279 with 15 HRs and 45 RBI. Last year he only hit .207 with three HRs and 14 RBI before being sent back down to Triple-A. I think a move out of the tough AL East to the NL Central would help Reimold get back to those 2009 numbers and even improve.

    They will also be getting a quality arm to go into their bullpen in Mike Gonzalez, who signed with the O's before the 2010 season. He struggled with some injuries last season and didn't really perform up to expectations. However, Gonzalez had some of his best years in the NL Central pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a change of scenery might help Gonzalez return to form.

6. Washington Nationals

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    Washington Receives: OF Carlos Lee

    Houston Receives: SP Jason Marquis

    Why Washington does this trade: They are able to get a player with power to help Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman in the middle of the lineup. Carlos Lee would help provide some of the production that they lost this offseason when Adam Dunn signed with the Chicago White Sox.

    This move also provides an upgrade over their current left fielder, Rick Ankiel. This would allow Ankiel to play a utility role off the bench, and he could back up all three outfield positions.

    Why Houston does this trade: This provides them with financial flexibility and helps secure one of their weak spots, the fifth spot in the rotation. Marquis is expected to make over $7 million this year and is coming off an awful year with the Nationals. The Nationals may be more than willing to move Marquis right now.

    He would also be able to return to the NL Central, where he had some decent years playing for the Cardinals and Cubs. This move would also allow the Astros to move Nelson Figueroa to the bullpen and strengthen that part of their pitching staff as well.

5. Seattle Mariners

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    Seattle Receives: OF Carlos Lee and cash considerations

    Houston Receives: SS Jack Wilson

    Why Seattle does this trade: Right now, Seattle has Jack Cust as its starting DH, and Carlos Lee could step in and provide more production than Cust. This would open playing time for Josh Wilson at shortstop, who could provide similar numbers to Jack Wilson.

    This move would help players like Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez and Justin Smoak, as there would be a legitimate power bat in the lineup to go with Ichiro. For this trade to work, Houston would most likely have to pick up part of Carlos Lee's remaining contract.

    Why Houston does this trade: They would be getting a veteran shortstop that would allow them to move Clint Barmes to move to second base and provide the Astros with a better defensive middle infield. This move also allows Wilson to play in the NL Central again, where he had his most success playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    This trade could also help Wilson revive his bat, as he will be leaving the pitcher-friendly park of Safeco and moving to Minute Maid Park with the short porch in left field. Financially this also makes sense, as Wilson is expected to make $5 million this year and only signed a two-year contract this offseason.

4. Texas Rangers

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    Texas Receives: OF Carlos Lee

    Houston Receives: OF David Murphy

    Why Texas does this trade: Now at first glance this trade might not make any sense. The Rangers just signed Adrian Beltre and have Michael Young at DH. However, I am not completely sold that Young will be playing DH for the Rangers for the whole 2011 season. If Young is moved, this would open the DH spot, and I could see Carlos Lee being a prime candidate that the Rangers would target in a trade.

    Carlos Lee would be a great addition to a team that already includes Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and breakout star Nelson Cruz. I also think Lee going to a hitter's ballpark like Rangers Ballpark would be a great place for him to end up and finish out his career.

    Why Houston does this trade: Again, at first thought you wouldn't think that Houston would want to trade with its state rival, but this might be the best situation for both teams. They would be getting a young outfielder in David Murphy who hit .291 last season with 12 HRs and 65 RBI in his third full season.

    I think Murphy still has some room to improve and with a chance to be a regular starter could become a solid contributor for the Astros over the next few years. He also has a great contract, making less than $500,000 next season, and provides financial flexibility.

3. Kansas City Royals

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    Kansas City Receives: OF Carlos Lee and cash considerations

    Houston Receives: SP Kyle Davies

    Why Kansas City does this trade: Kansas City is severely lacking in the power department heading into the 2011 season. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have been expected to be those players, but they haven't been able to show it yet. Carlos Lee could come in and be the big bat in the middle of the lineup and let Gordon and Butler continue to develop.

    This move would also allow the Royals to move Butler back to first base and then have Lee start at DH. This move would also allow some lineup flexibility, as Lee could also step in for Gordon in left field when he needs a break.

    Why Houston does this trade: The Houston Astros get a young pitcher to fill that fifth spot in the rotation. Kyle Davies has struggled over the past few years, and a change of scenery back to the NL might be able to help him find some success again.

    He has only been in the majors for five years now and will be 27 at the start of the season. Even though the Astros would have to pay for a portion of Lee's contract to make this work, it would still be a good move financially moving forward.

2. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Toronto Receives: OF Carlos Lee

    Houston Receives: OF Travis Snider

    Why Toronto does this trade: They just traded Vernon Wells and all 31 HRs he had last year to the Angels. They will be looking for a player to fill that hole and provide some help for Jose Bautista in the middle of the lineup, and Lee is that player. With Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar at the top of the order, Bautista and Lee would have plenty of opportunity to knock in runs.

    The Blue Jays could move Adam Lind to right field, with Rajai Davis in center field and Juan Rivera in left. That would open up the DH spot for Carlos Lee. Financially they could take on this contract, as they just traded away Wells, who was expected to make $23 million this year.

    Why Houston does this trade: Travis Snider is a young outfielder who is still developing his game. Last year he played 82 games for the Blue Jays, hitting .255 with 14 HRs and 32 RBI, which were areas he improved on from 2009, when he played in 77 games. Financially this is a great deal for the Astros, as Snider will be making a little over $400,000 next season.

    This would be a great situation for Snider, as expectations are low in Houston this coming season, and he would get plenty of playing time to develop his skills along with the other young players like Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson and Jason Castro.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Arizona Receives: OF Carlos Lee

    Houston Receives: SP Barry Enright

    Why Arizona does this trade: They are another team that is looking for a power bat in the middle of the lineup and would probably be willing to sacrifice some defense in the field to get it. They are looking for a bat to fill the void that has been left by Mark Reynolds heading to Baltimore.

    Right now, Xavier Nady is penciled in as the left fielder for Arizona, and Carlos Lee would definitely be an upgrade over Nady, as well provide that power bat Arizona needs to help Justin Upton, Chris Young and Stephen Drew.

    Arizona also has more than enough quality starting pitchers after they traded for Armando Galarraga, and Lee provides more value to them than having a starting pitcher move to the bullpen.

    Why Houston does this trade: They get a young arm to help a starting rotation that already includes two other promising young pitchers in J.A. Happ and Bud Norris. This move will help solidify the rotation for years to come. It also again provides some financially flexibility and cuts payroll. This trade would provide returns both in the short term as well as help the long-term future of the club.

    Enright did struggle towards the end of the season and is not a finished product yet. I think with another year in the minors, he could be ready to step into the starting rotation in 2012, when the Astros should be more competitive.