I know that Houston Astros general manager Ed Wade has some defenders in the city. They say we can't judge Wade, supposedly, because he's hamstrung by contracts that were given out before he arrived. We can't judge Wade because, supposedly, he's still putting his blueprint on this club. We can't judge because his boss, Drayton McLane, is putting a halt to the big spending and won't let Wade go out and buy players.
But at the conclusion of Sunday's game with the Padres, 16 of the 25 players on the Astros major league roster were players brought on board by Ed Wade.
This includes Michael Bourn, Pedro Feliz, Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon, and Brett Myers. It also includes Casey Daigle, Jeff Keppinger, Jason Michaels, Humberto Quintero, Angel Sanchez, Oswaldo Navarro, Jason Castro, Gustavo Chacin, Wilton Lopez, and Tim Byrdak. So for some guy who hasn't had much time to shape the roster, it sure looks like he's been doing some shaping.
And while McLane has supposedly cut the free-agent budget, Wade has wasted some big bucks on some pretty questionable deals. He's giving $4.5 million to Pedro Feliz this season. He's giving Brandon Lyon $15 million over three years to be a setup guy. The Astros are still paying for Kazuo Matsui, the injury-prone, light-hitting middle infielder that was one of Wade's first signings when he took over in Houston.
Sure Wade has to deal with the stupid contract that McLane handed out to Carlos Lee, and the Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman contracts were handed out before he took the GM job. But anybody who has followed Wade's career, or knows how to Google, knows that Wade gave out stupid and unexplainable contracts to the likes of Jim Thome, Pat Burrell, and David Bell.So while he might not have been the one who signed Lee as a free agent, there is precedent to show that Wade would likely have been on board with that deal were he able to do it himself.
But what none of Wade's supporters can really point to is Wade's plan for the team. Sure, we hear the nebulous talk about building through the draft and the farm system, which is what Wade supposedly did in Philadelphia. But every team wants to build through the farm system. Even the Yankees and Red Sox teams are largely built from the work of their farm system. So it's nice that Wade wants to do what the successful teams do, but even awful teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles talk about building through the farm system. Just like the Astros. And we know how successful they've been.
Wait your turn behind Jim Thome
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Bill Wood got Steve Finley, Curt Schilling, and Pete Harnisch for Glenn Davis. He got Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen. At the time of the Bagwell trade, Bagwell was stuck behind a guy named Scott Cooper, and it was Cooper that the Red Sox saw as the heir apparent to Wade Boggs at third base. But I can't help but think that Wade would have traded Andersen for Cooper, then he would have benched Ken Caminiti so that Wade could prove his genius.
Wade's known for letting players languish in the minors. Ryan Howard was stuck behind Jim Thome. Chase Utley was stuck behind Polanco. Hell, this season saw Chris Johnson stuck behind the dynamic duo of Feliz and Geoff Blum and Jason Castro was stuck behind the likes of Kevin Cash. This is a guy who lets Edwin Maysonet, Jason Bourgeois, and Brian Bogusevic languish behind the likes of Blum and Jason Michaels. It's not that Maysonet, Bourgeois, and Bogusevic are surefire major league all stars. But when you've got one of the worst records in baseball, it makes no sense to keep going with lackluster veteran talent when there are younger players in the minors just dying for a chance to prove themselves in the majors.
Back in the late-80s, Bill Wood was named GM of the Houston Astros. He had an owner who was slashing the budget, dumping salary, and demanding that high-priced stars be traded away. Yet operating under these constraints, Wood laid the foundation for a franchise that was arguably one of the best from the mid-`90s up to 2005. Does anyone see any sign of this level of competence when they look at Ed Wade?
So go ahead. Defend him all you want. But in the end, Wade is nothing more than a PR guy who is friends with Tal Smith. And with the Astros, being a friend of Tal Smith is really all that matters.