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What Does the Cliff Lee Trade Mean for the Houston Astros?

With Cliff Lee being snatched from the grasp of the mighty Yankees, the Texas Rangers with their super offense and acquisition of a true number one ace have now gained instant credibility from the circles of other MLB teams and fans across the nation.

Lee has not only proven that he can win in the playoffs, but that he can beat the Yankees. In the 2010 MLB world we live in, if you are going to win a World Series, somewhere along the line you have to be able to beat the Yankees; be it in the World Series if you're an NL team or in the ALDS or ALCS if you're an AL team.

With the biggest fish in the pond now gone, all eyes turn from Arlington, Texas, 260 miles south to Houston where the Astros who are 13.5 games out of first place have a sole focused objective of moving more than $48 million of salaried employees tied up in just three players; Roy Oswalt ($15 million), Lance Berkman ($14.5 million), and Carlos Lee ($19 million).

Roy Oswalt has another year remaining on his five year $73 million contract extension.

Lance Berkman is in the final year of his six year $85 million contract. He's due $2 million if the Astros or acquiring team do not pick up his $15 million option for 2011, and it's assumed that neither the Astros nor any other team would pick up that extension.

Carlos Lee has two more years left on his six year $100 million contract as it expires after the 2012 season.

One would think that Lee is virtually untradeable because of his contract.

From an economic standpoint, Berkman would be the easiest to move because the acquiring team would simply have to pay him the rest of this season and give up prospects. In many ways it would be very much like the Cliff Lee deal, and Berkman has already stated that he will waive his no trade clause. One would think that they could even get the Astros to pay the $2 million buyout as the team would have to pay it anyway if they don't trade him. At least this way the Astros would get wanted prospects and or players in return.

As for Oswalt, now that the Rangers have made their landscape changing move, it remains to be seen whether the Angels counter by adding him. One wonders whether the Yankees were going after Lee more to keep him away from their competition than anything else. It's hard to believe that they feel they NEED pitching and will go after Oswalt, although they are one of the few teams that can absorb the 1 ½ years left on his contract. The Twins were one of the teams going hard after Lee, but he was a much cheaper alternative than Oswalt and I don't see them spending that type of money after already adding quite a bit to their payroll this year. From a payroll standpoint, they can hardly be considered a small market team anymore. They are now 11th in payroll at just under $98 million. While they may have a little wiggle room left, they've already stretched things to the max moving into the new stadium.

I could see the Angels adding Oswalt if they feel they have a run in them and I could see the Mets adding Oswalt because they can probably afford him and really need another pitcher if they are going to compete down the stretch. However, my sources say that they are more interested in Ted Lilly who has $5.6 million left on his 2010 contract. I would be very surprised to see anyone else shell out the $25 million for another 1 ½ years it would take to get him.  For the record, Oswalt has already stated that he would not waive his no trade clause for a trade involving the White Sox or the Tigers. - Mike Cardano

Mike is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball & Xtra Point Football.

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