Along with acquiring a middle-of-the-order run producing RF and finding a new home for Corey Patterson
, Jim Hendry has at least one other item of importance to accomplish this off-season, or at least sometime prior to Opening Day 2006.
And what might that be?
No, it's not "Sign Jose Macias to a AAA contract with an invitation to Spring Training as non-roster player" (although I feel confident that will happen).
What I had in mind is signing Derrek Lee
to a contract extension.
I know there a few here at TCR who would not hesitate to trade Derrek Lee for Miguel Tejada
or somebody of that stature, but I would imagine most TCR contributors are happy with D-Lee at 1B and hope that he will not be a free-agent after next season.
So if you believe (as I do) that it is important for Jim Hendry to sign Derrek Lee to a contract extension, for how long, and for how much? What's it gonna take?
My guess is a contract similar to the one Paul Konerko
recently signed with the White Sox (5 years/$60m, limited no trade) would be satisfactory to D-Lee, although since he is already signed through 2006 for $9.42m, a 4 year/$50m contract extension for 2007-10 would give D-Lee about what Konerko is getting over the same years.
There are a lot similarities between Konerko and D-Lee. Both will be the same age (30) on Opening Day 2006, both play 1B, both are Top-of-the-Line sluggers in mid-career, both are good citizens, good teammates, and good employees, and both are steady, stable players who seem to be genuinely happy and content playing in Chicago. So Konerko's new contract with the Sox would seem to be a good benchmark for what Derrek Lee should expect to get from the Cubs (should they choose to offer an extension, which I believe they absolutely, positively will).
And knowing Hendry as we do, you can figure he will probably try and get a vesting option for year five (2010) tied to games played in 2008-09 (in case Lee gets hit by a bus or something), in exchange for a player option to leave after 2007 (same type of contract Aramis Ramirez
signed last April).
Why Hendry likes that trade-off, I don't know exactly, but it might be that he believes the player is so thrilled to have a chance to play for the Cubs and would be leaving so much money on the table that he probably
woouldn't want to leave early (no, really, I think he actually believes that), and that it might give a bit more motivation for the player to do his best, have good years, and stay strong, healthy, and clean (with the new MLB substance abuse policy, staying "clean" takes on far greater significance now than it ever did before) throughout the length of the contract if there is a player option after the first two years and a vesting option based on games played at the end.
2006: $9.42m (In addition to $300,000 in 2005 performance bionuses for winning the Gold Golove and Silver Slugger awards in 2005, D-Lee's 2006 salary escalated by $750,000 after finishing 3rd in the 2005 N. L. MVP)
2007: $12.5m (player option to be FA after 2007)
2010: $12.5m (vesting option tied to games played in 2009-10, or else club option with $3m buy-out)