It would be terribly simplistic to claim Drayton McLane just promised Carlos Lee the money he should’ve given Carlos Beltran. But there you go, I’ve done it. From the Houston Chronicle’s Jose De Jesus Ortiz.

The Houston Astros have called a press conference for 4 p.m. today to announce the signing of slugging outfielder Carlos Lee, bringing optimism to Lee’s new teammates.Lee’s deal is for six years and close to $90 million, a Major League Baseball official has told the Chronicle. With Lee, the Astros have another powerful bat to put in the middle of the lineup along with All-Star slugger Lance Berkman.

In other news, University of Houston product Woody Williams, a righthanded starting pitcher, also has reached a deal with the Astros, according to a Major League Baseball official.

Coincidently, Tim Marchman has a fine column in today’s New York Sun entitled “Average Players Commanding 8 Figures In The New Era”.

We’re in the midst of a stretch of bad free agent classes, and players lucky enough to find themselves in such classes always get paid more than it seems they should. Player salaries appear to have been artificially held down by collusive behavior by the owners in 2002 and 2003 ” the owners recently paid the union money to settle claims of collusion without admitting wrongdoing ” so it’s hard to judge today’s deals against those signed a few years ago, especially considering that baseball salaries naturally rise faster than the rate of inflation. There’s also just a lot of money in baseball right now, between a revenue sharing agreement that’s worked better in practice than it does in theory, new-television money, and above all the ever-growing popularity of the game. Some of it is going to work its way toward guys like Juan Pierre.

On the merits, these were probably ill-advised deals, especially the Gary Matthews signing ” they’re hardly anything fans of either team should get truly worked up over, but a team that makes enough such moves eventually turns into the Orioles.