The 30-year-old outfielder hit a combined 37 home runs and 116 RBIs with Milwaukee and Texas. Houston signed him to a hefty 6-year, $100 million deal yesterday.
Conflicting reports said the Phillies would either blow the competition out of the water or pass entirely on Alfonso Soriano's bridesmaid. The Astros made it a moot point, adding the stock slugger to bolster the National League’s worst offense. The team also inked right-hander Woody Williams Friday, as they brace for the loss of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
Lee becomes the latest high-ticket outfielder to not become the new face of the Phillies, a task that didn’t produce happy endings for Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell -- both more appealing than Lee. Last week, Soriano, believed to be the team’s No. 1 target, signed with the Chicago Cubs for eight years, $136 million.
Adding Lee, an offense-only outfielder, would have made them poorer, but not markedly better. Knowing how this town scrutinizes its high-priced stars, it would have taken less than a season of sub-.500 ball for Lee to become the new goat for discontent. He’s been with three clubs in three seasons, all during his prime. It's telling that his trade to Milwaukee, in exchange for Scott Podsednik, was basically a shakeup that worked out better for the White Sox.
Houston was one of the few teams that needed no-frills offense, so Lee was a logical fit. But isn’t it funny how Houston and Chicago, the big spenders so far, still don’t appear much better than mediocre? Plus, they cancel one another in the NL Central. By design or not, the Phillies have watched the price of offense soar, as reports are they still intend to deal Burrell, whose relationship with the club must be tenuous. Look for Burrell to add just a few more destinations to his list, as desperate teams may be willing to tack on extra seasons to his increasingly reasonable contract.