The Houston Chronicle's Jesus Ortiz made a bit of a noise last week when he reported that former Astros GM Ed Wade ripped off the Philadelphia Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade. Not only was new stud Jon Singleton part of the trade, but so were starting pitcher Jarred Cosart and reliever Josh Zied. But the theft, says the story, was in the acquisition of AAA outfielder Domingo Santana, who was thrown in as the proverbial player to be named later. Santana's excelling in the minors, and there are people salivating over a future Astros outfield of George Springer, Dexter Fowler and Santana.
The thing of it is, Ortiz writes, that Santana wasn't supposed to have been part of the deal. He wasn't supposed to be included in the list of potential players the Astros could choose to complete the trade, and when the Astros saw him, they snapped him up. (The Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. have vigorously denied the story.)
This has led some to think that maybe Ed Wade was more competent than originally thought by Astros fans. That he was a good guy put in a tough spot by an owner who depleted the minors, didn't want to spend on the draft and was looking to sell off pieces to make the team more attractive to potential buyers. And that put in this losing situation, Wade did the best possible job he could do.
Singleton, for instance, has been anointed as one of the saviors of the franchise. And he's a Wade acquisition. Then there's one of the other saviors, George Springer, who Wade drafted in the first round in 2011. Jason Castro, the catcher, was Wade's No. 1 draft choice in 2008. Starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel was a seventh-round pick by Wade's regime in 2009, and Jarred Cosart, another starter, was also part of the Pence trade.
Don't forget Jordan Lyles, a Wade draft pick who was flipped to the Rockies as part of the Dexter Fowler trade, or J.D. Martinez, who's now with the Tigers. And the top names on the lips of salivating fans awaiting their major league promotions are Delino DeShields, Mike Foltynewicz and Austin Wates, all Ed Wade regime draft picks.
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That's a pretty good haul for a man who was pretty much reviled by all Astros fans (including me). If Jim Crane had just been patient and let Wade do his job, the Astros would've been in fine shape with having to go through the Jeff Luhnow demolition project. But let's hold up for just a minute. Wade pulled off a good job with the Pence trade. He made some nice draft picks. But there's no evidence he knew how to put together a major league roster (hello, Kaz Matsui, Bill Hall, Pedro Feliz, Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton). And while the Astros won the Pence trade, the team lost the Roy Oswalt trade with the Phillies. The Lance Berkman trade was a bust, and the Michael Bourn trade can be seen as a win only if you think adding Paul Clemens and his willingness to hit opposing batters for bunting against the shift is a plus.
The shifting thinking toward Ed Wade is akin to the way some people tried to give Chuck LaMar credit for the Tampa Bay Rays when they started getting good in 2008. Sure, LaMar was a disgraced GM who presided over one of the worst teams in MLB for over a decade. But look at his drafts. The Rays were full of his high-round draft picks, and if not for his eye for talent, the Rays would still be a bad baseball team. That thinking misses one thing: LaMar did such a poor job of actually assembling a big-league roster that the Rays were routinely the worst team in baseball, thus putting them in prime territory to get the first pick in the MLB draft every year.
Wade, or his staff, like LaMar had the ability to spot talent. What he couldn't do, like LaMar, was actually put together a roster where all of the pieces coalesced into a decent team. His work might be the key to the Asrtros returning to relevance, but nothing indicates the team would be in better shape, or the same shape, if he had stuck around in a job he's never proven he can handle.
Then there's this: What's the talk going to be like in 2019 when Nolan Ryan owns the team and Jeff Luhnow's been dispatched for someone more in tune with Ryan's thinking? Will Luhnow be seen as someone who could put together a major league roster, or will he just be a guy who knew how to draft but couldn't turn that talent into a winning franchise?