Jeff Luhnow Declares Independence from Carlos Lee

Jeff Luhnow traded Carlos Lee to the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. Lee dillydallied and whined about his taxes, so the Dodgers pulled out of the trade. It appeared that the Astros would thus be stuck with Lee for the rest of the season as the Dodgers were really, really, really desperate for anybody who could hit the ball out of the infield.

But yesterday, Luhnow declared the Astros' independence once and for all from the twin albatrosses of Carlos Lee and his ridiculous Drayton McLane-gifted contract by trading Lee to the Miami Marlins. And since Lee's contract stated that he could be traded to the Marlins, there was nothing Lee could do to stop the trade.

The speculation started midway through yesterday afternoon's loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates when Lee was removed from the game. Then various tweets started hitting the Twitter, including these tweets in Spanish, all reporting a Lee trade to the Marlins. Then ESPN's Buster Olney picked up on it as the game ended.'s Brian McTaggart and the Chron's Zachary Levine were reporting the game from Pittsburgh, and they first reported that the clubhouse was closed to the press for an inordinately long time. This could have been justified based on the team's play on a day that marked perhaps the worst examples of ball-handling, base running, and overall decision-making of the season. Then they tweeted that Lee's locker was empty and that he was gone, then came the official word, he'd been traded to the Marlins.

The Astros are supposedly eating the rest of Lee's salary for this season, but they're supposed to be getting some decent prospects from the Marlins. Frankly, to me it doesn't really matter who the Astros are getting, or how much of the salary they have to pay because the Astros have won this trade anyway.

The Astros are a team with an attitude problem - witness Jordan Schafer getting pulled midway through the game yesterday for his attitude - and Lee's attitude has been part of the problem. There's been the continuous lack of hustle. There's the huge contract which has forced a potentially better player to sit in the minors while Lee played. And you just know Lee didn't help the whole "it's about winning the World Series" thing when he rejected a trade to a contending team because he'd have to pay a bit more in taxes.

For what it's worth, the trade to the Marlins should actually work out better for Lee than the trade to the Dodgers. The Marlins have more obstacles to overcome before they can reach the playoffs, but unlike the Dodgers, Lee's not going to have to be the offensive machine. The Marlins are already paying big dollars to Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Giancarlo Stanton for offense. They just need Lee to hit balls out of the infield every now and then, which their current guys failing at first base have been unable to do.

And as the Astros get younger, this deal definitely helps the team. Brett Wallace has been killing the ball at Oklahoma City, and he killed the ball when he was with the team for a few weeks earlier this season while Lee was on the disabled list. Wallace struggled when he was given the first base job last season, but was never really given the chance to break out of his slump as Lee was moved to first base.

The Astros have been doing some good things this season. They're letting J.D. Martinez, Jason Castro, Jose Altuve, Chris Johnson, and Brian Bogusevic play on a consistent basis even as they go into and out of slumps, and even though Martinez doesn't quite appear to know how to run the bases, Johnson doesn't quite know how to field the ball, and Castro has problems with the whole "catching" aspect of being a catcher. When a team's young, and it's bad, the best way to find out how good your young talent really is is by letting them actually play.

Now the path's clear for Brett Wallace to come up and play the rest of the season. There should be no benching of him if he goes into a slump. No sitting him against left-handed pitchers. If he's ever going to become the team's everyday first baseman, then let's find out.

As for Jeff Luhnow, all I can think of is his channeling Bill Pullman talking about celebrating Independence Day.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal