WTNYNovember 26, 2003
Lee, Lee, and some salaries
By Bryan Smith

Yesterday, Aaron Gleeman introduced a new stat of his, entitled "Gleeman Production Average," which is a more advanced statistic than OPS. He is trying to weigh on-base percentage and slugging percentage equally, basically by multiplying OBP by 1.8. He then divides by four, and you have a number synonomous to batting average. It's a good attempt, but if he calls it GPA, then multiplying his final number by 10 would give you a school-like GPA. Barry Bonds would have a 4.25, which makes a lot more sense. That came from a thread on Baseball Primer, during which I spent half my afternoon talking on. Between Gleeman, Patel, and Pinto's statistics, it's definitely a sabermatrician winter.

Then, news broke about my Cubbies. Derrek Lee for Hee Seop and an unimportant minor league (to be named later). I argued for this trade on both Primer and the Cub Reporter. Primer was a very negative source for the trade, and the Cub Reporter was filled with optimism. I'll make my argument a little later in this column, but basically, it's very stupid and close-minded for any REAL Cub fan to diss Jim Hendry. Read on if you want stuff on that.

But today I'm going back to salaries briefly, in which I've spent each of the last two days talking about. I gave rough estimates of where teams currently stood at, and how much money that would leave them on the free agent market. Numbers ranged from $4M to over $30M, obviously depending on the team and market. I wanted to establish what type of market there would be, and how much money would be sitting around for free agents.

So, I've added all the totals of how much teams will spend this offseason, for both the National League and the American League...

National League- $218M ($13.625M per team)
American League- $173M ($12.357M per team)

Major League Baseball- $391M ($13.033M per team)

The National League is slightly more this offseason, which is mainly helped by me adding the Curt Schilling trade int my accounts. I then used the Transaction Guy's free agents listing to discover there are currently 204 Major League free agents whom have filed for free agency and intend to sign. I say that because Roger Clemens, Albert Belle, and Dean Palmer are all likely finished. So, a little more calculating:

$391M/204FA= $1.917M per FA

So, by my calculations, the average contract signed this offseason will be just under $2M, although I must admit I don't know where this ranks in recent years. I'll try to figure out where that relates to past seasons, but I'm guessing it isn't as low as last season, but still below the Golden years (the Rodriguez, Ramirez, Hampton contract offseason).

This season's top 6 free agents, ranked by ESPN, read as follows:

1. Vladimir Guerrero- RF
2. Bartolo Colon- SP
3. Miguel Tejada- SS
4. Gary Sheffield- RF
5. Pudge Rodriguez- C
6. Kevin Millwood- SP

These are the only six free agents that I estimate will earn $8M or more per year in contract, as they find themselves in the upmost echelon. I then went on to predict their contracts:

1. Guerrero- $14M per year
2. Colon- $12M per year
3. Tejada- $10M per year
4. Sheffield- $12M per year
5. Rodriguez- $8M per year
6. Millwood- $8M per year

Total- $64M

So, by my unprecise calculations, I guess the top six free agents will earn a combined $64M next season, or making up 16.37% of the money that will be spent on free agents. So, I re-run the calculations...

Money available: 391-64= $327M
Players available: 204-6= 198FA

Money per player: 327/198= $1.65M

So, after the upmost echelon, the average free agent will make $1.65M in the 2003-2004 offseason. Why is this interesting? You tell me. It will make a lot more sense when I compare this to past years, but this is a very introductory article. I'm trying to add stats to this site folks, bear with me for awhile.

OK, that's not exactly my niche, so I'm going to move to analyzing trades, my specialty...

Yesterday, the Cub's got Derrek Lee from the Marlins for 1B Hee Seop Choi and a future minor leaguer. To start my argument, let me re-emphasize the history of the Cubs. The last time Chicago was in the World Series was 1945, a.k.a the end of World War II. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was nearly a decade before World War I broke out. That is the longest drought in professional sports. We suffer, and we are mocked. Cubs fans would do anything to win a World Series, which was the gist behind some bad Old Style commercials in the Chicago area (I won't get into that).

So, let me go onto say that 2004 is the most important year for the Cubs since the late-60s. Haha, you're probably laughing right? I mean, us Cub fans say that every year. But I'm completely serious, for a number of reasons:

- This is the last contract year for Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Derrek Lee, Moises Alou
- Sammy Sosa is starting a long decline
- Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano are reaching their peaks eerily early

So, I conclude that 2004, the first year I can remember that the Cubs could be the NL favorites, is very important. It's all about 2004. Our great farm system, good crop of young players doesn't matter, the focus is on next season. My belief is that any move to improve next year's team is a good one, which definitely (to me) meant trading Juan Cruz and Hee Seop Choi.

OK, I'll throw some stats out there:

Lee Overall: .271/.379/.508
Vs. LH: .333/.462/.600 Vs. RH: .256/.358/.486
Home: .242/.371/.419 Away: .297/.388/.591
Pre-ASB: .263/.372/.491 Post-ASB: .284/.393/.537
Lee 2001 OPS: .820
Lee 2002 OPS: .872
Lee 2003 OPS: .887
And Choi:

Choi Overall: .218/.350/.421
Vs. LH: 1H in 17AB Vs. RH: .232/.349/.449
Home: .211/.372/.413 Away: .226/.321/.430
Pre-ASB: .239/.379/.465 Post-ASB: 6H in 43AB

Derrek Lee has amazingly positive indicators, because he hit much better on the road, after the break, and has improved each of the last three seasons. He mashes left-handers, but will contribute against right-handers very well. The Cubs will keep a left-handed 1B bat (Simon or Snow) on the bench to make the occasional start, but it won't be a straight platoon. Also, Lee won a Gold Glove in 2003, and has stolen at least 19 bases each of the last two seasons. Not only is he better (currently) offensively than Choi, but he also adds defense and speed.

Choi has as much potential, as any hitter under 25 right now, but that isn't important to Cub fans, as I explained earlier. While his OPS (and GPA) might be favorable because of a lot of walks, he doesn't make contact enough to be a factor in the Major Leagues right now. Scouts say he has a gaping hole on the inside half of the plate, and while I think he'll overcome that problem, it might take a little while. Chicago doesn't have time to waste developing players, Corey Patterson took long enough.

The only valid argument for naysayers is money. I will argue that the difference between Choi and Lee contracts aren't important, I mean I documented yesterday the Cubs had the money to make a big deal like this. But the argument is the Cubs should be worrying about different positions first. Should Miguel Tejada have been higher on the want list because Alex Gonzalez sucks? Maybe. But right now, the Cubs 3-5 (Sosa, Lee, Ramirez) is very good, and Gonzalez adds Gold Glove defense. They still have the money to address 2B, the fifth spot, and the bullpen, so I guess I can invalidate (is that a word?) that argument as well.

I loved the Lee-Choi trade, and I will definitely track their progress in 2004. My guess? How about a .120 difference in OPS, in favor of Mr. Lee. And whomever first pointed out that Derrek Lee's father was the one that signed Choi should be sainted, as that is the coolest fact I read all of yesterday. I'm going to have to refer to Tupac to conclude my article, as a quote from "Keep Ya Head Up" perfectly defines the Cubs philosophy for 2003-2004: "if you fall, stand tall and come back for more." See ya tomorrow...