We've been debating the eventual fate of Carlos Lee almost since the very day the Brewers first acquired him, before the 2005 season in trade for Scott Podsednik. To get us started, Dave Begel and Drew Olson hashed out the issues in a Point/Counterpoint at OnMilwaukee.com.
Begel says we have to keep him:
I'm going to register an objection against "solid, even sometimes spectacular defense," but moving on for now, Olson says we don't:
- Barring injury, Lee will command something like $50-$65m over 4-5 years in free agency. I expect he will settle for very little less with the Brewers, even if he wants to stay in Milwaukee.
- There may not be a potential superstar among the younger Brewers outfielders, but with Corey Hart, Gabe Gross, and Nelson Cruz, it's a reasonable bet that the Crew could get, say, Jenkins-like production out of LF next year.
- As Drew suggests, players start their decline right...about...now. There's almost no way that Carlos would be worth $12m+ in the fifth year of his deal, maybe not even in the 2nd or 3rd year. Heck, aside from 2004 with the White Sox and what he may amass this year, he's never been worth that much.
- The Brewers will always have a relatively small payroll, and even if it grows to, say, $70m, a Carlos contract could really impair Doug Melvin's ability to do what else needs to be done.
- We're very lucky to have lots of "cheap" players right now: Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Hall, Capuano, and Turnbow are all making next to nothing this year by baseball standards. However, as they enter arbitration, they'll get pricier, squeezing the payroll a bit more, especially into what would be the 3rd, 4th and 5th years of Carlos's next contract.
Is Carlos worth the $60m/5y to the Crew? Would you be willing to give him more money over less time, like $42m/3y? Do you not care to find out what happens to Carlos when he turns 33, but want to offer $25m/2y with incentives that could push it up to $32m?
In other words, when he goes into negotiations with Carlos's agent, Doug Melvin has to have a few numbers in his head that he's comfortable with...that he won't exceed. What should those numbers be?