Here comes El Caballo
Say whaaaaaaa? That’s what everyone told me when they got the news today. The Houston Astros have stepped up to the plate and they’ve done what fans all over the place have demanded: getting not just a respectable bat in Carlos Lee; but also solid pitching in Woody Williams.
Let’s face it: they have upped the ante, and that’s something that, at first sight, is not usual Astros behavior (unless you count offers made to Roger Clemens and the unfinished Carlos Beltran proposal). This also sends people a message: We are not kidding. We mean business.
And that’s something gladly welcome, considering Tim Purpura had not made a blockbuster deal in his tenure as Astros GM, until now. He has not just adressed one but two needs the Astros had. Williams and Lee will certainly help fill some seats.
Not just that. It might also be the catalyst Roger Clemens needs in order to sign one more year with Houston, something that might be on Purpura’s agenda, might scare him and Drayton McLane a bit and they are certainly forced to do if Clemens agrees. Andy Pettitte must make up his mind as well. Now.
The $100 million figure offered to Lee is definitely the product of an overblown market thanks in large part to what the Cubs offered to Alfonso Soriano (and are willing to pay a more deserving Carlos Zambrano). Not precisely fair, but it became a requirement.
Purpura told us he was going to be aggressive during the Winter Meetings. After his previous history, we were a bit skeptical; and we are glad to see he proved us wrong.
Here’s the official press release from the Astros:
ASTROS SIGN LEE AND WILLIAMS
Two-time All-Star outfielder and Houston native right-hander sign multi-year contracts
HOUSTON ? The Houston Astros announced today that the club has signed free-agent outfielder Carlos Lee to a six-year, $100 million contract and right-handed pitcher Woody Williams to a two-year, $12.50 million contract plus incentives with a club option for 2009. The announcement was made by General Manager Tim Purpura.
The 30-year-old Lee hit .300 (187×624) with 37 home runs and 116 RBI in a combined 161 games between Milwaukee and Texas in 2006. He hit .286 (111×388) with 28 home runs and 81 RBI in 102 games for the Brewers last year before being traded to the Rangers along with outfielder Nelson Cruz on July 28, 2006, in exchange for right-handed pitcher Francisco Cordero, outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix, and left-handed pitcher Julian Cordero. After joining Texas, Lee hit .322 (76×236) with nine home runs and 35 RBI in 59 games.
?This is a historic day for our franchise,? said Purpura. ?We succeeded in fulfilling two of our off-season objectives, obtaining a run-producing middle-of-the-order power hitter, and we bolstered our starting pitching staff. Carlos Lee is one of the finest offensive players in the game today, and he will fit very nicely in the middle of our batting order for years to come. Woody Williams is a veteran pitcher who pitches with guts and guile. He will be an integral part of our rotation and will be a mentor to our young pitchers.?
Lee is a veteran of eight Major League seasons and has hit .286 (1308×4570) with 221 home runs and 782 RBI in 1,203 career big league games for the Chicago White Sox (1999-04), Milwaukee (2005-06) and Texas (2006). Lee set career-highs in home runs (37), runs batted in (116), hits (187) and stolen bases (19) in 2006. He collected 300-plus total bases for the fourth consecutive season, finishing eighth in the Majors with 337 total bases. Lee has posted five consecutive seasons of 25 or more home runs since 2002, and 2006 marked the fourth consecutive season that his home run total increased or tied the previous season. The slugger struck out only 65 times in 624 at-bats in 2006, and he has never struck out more than 94 times in a Major League season.
In 2005, Lee earned his first All-Star appearance and received the Silver Slugger award from Louisville Slugger, an award given to the best offensive player at each position in each league. He ranked sixth in the National League with 114 RBI and set the Brewers franchise record for the most before the All-Star Break, plating 76 runs in the first half. Lee was named the Brewers team MVP and finished eighth in the National League in balloting for the Most Valuable Player.
Williams, 40, joins the Astros after spending the past two seasons with the San Diego Padres, where the right-hander compiled a 21-17 record with a 4.28 ERA (145ER/305IP). He was 12-5 with a 3.65 ERA (59ER/145.1IP) for the National League West Division champions in 2006 and was one of eight NL pitchers to record eight or more wins after the All-Star Break. He also pitched for San Diego from 1999-2001.
A veteran of 14 Major League seasons, Williams is 124-101 with a 4.09 ERA (921ER/2028.1IP). The Fresno resident ranks 12th all-time among active pitchers with nine wins at Minute Maid Park. In 13 career starts at the ballpark, Williams is 9-3 with a 4.42 ERA (37ER/75.1IP). A Houston native, Williams was an All-District shortstop at Cypress-Fairbanks High School and attended the University of Houston, where he was an All-Region shortstop after receiving an Associate of Arts degree from Alvin Community College (Texas).