Houston Extends Wade

When it comes to analyzing general managers, there’s a large degree of deferment. The intimate knowledge necessary to fully evaluate their job lacks when it comes to budgetary limits, and the input offered by their scouting and information staffs is largely unknown. Similar to cases where pitching or hitting coaches are removed, we have to defer to the organization and trust that something in their teachings and instruction simply didn’t work, even if those complaints fail to show in statistics.

Even with some degree of deferment, the Ed Wade extension is hard to grasp. Ignore the slight losing record in Wade’s two full seasons at the helm. There are cases where a losing record for a period is unavoidable and not the kiss of death. Take, for instance, Andrew Friedman’s 127-197 record through his first two seasons. Under Friedman’s watch, the Rays continued to develop their farm system while acquiring and nurturing youth and potentially useful role players alike. Wade hasn’t done that.

The questions extend beyond the record. Wade has avoided signing questionable long-term deals for the most part. It’s far too early to attempt and judge his draft classes, though the Astros’ farm system had little room to decrease in quality. His major moves have mostly been through trades, the most notable of which occurred in a short span of 2007, which saw Wade trading Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary, and Mike Constanzo; sending Constanzo, Matt Albers, Troy Patton, Dennis Sarfate, and Luke Scott to Baltimore for Miguel Tejada; then turning Chris Burke, Juan Gutierrez, and Chad Qualls into Jose Valverde.

A few non-descript moves have worked out along the way, too, like trading Chad Reineke for a few months worth of Randy Wolf, then trading Matt Cusick for LaTroy Hawkins. Those moves could be useful on a talented team, but the problem is that Houston has an identity crisis. Trading for middle relievers and rentals on mid-rotation starters when you aren’t really in the position to compete for the playoffs seems like a misuse of time and resources. They’re in a rut where they can float around .500 and occasionally sniff out a season like 2008, but anything more is unlikely.

The Astros’ payroll is incredibly top heavy. Carlos Lee still has three years and $55M left on his contract, yet he turns 34 years old in late June. Roy Oswalt is Houston’s property through 2012, but he no longer appears to be an ace. Lance Berkman is the only other player making more than $6M on the roster and he qualifies for free agency after next year. After that trio, the Astros payroll is split into a few million dollar chunks here and there. Bright spots like Wandy Rodriguez and Hunter Pence are nearing their pay days too.

That leaves little flexibility moving forward and when met with a weak farm system, the odds of Houston becoming a worthwhile contender during Wade’s tenure are slim to none. Add in that the team could evidently be in the process of being sold, and really, this entire thing makes no sense. I don’t know what Drayton McLane is doing and frankly deferring to him scares me.




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33 Responses to “Houston Extends Wade”

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  1. The last calendar year has been the year of bad GM extensions. First Dayton Moore, now Wade. I’m guessing the Giants extend Sabean through 2013, next.

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  2. The A Team says:

    Wade seems to be good at pleasing his superiors. He pulled the same stunts in Philly, managing to stick around way too long despite being next to useless as a helmsman.

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  3. tpack says:

    A few things:

    Most of the big contracts you mention (Lee, Oswalt, Berkman) were signed before Wade.

    While, as you say, the acquisitions of Hawkins and Valverde would have helped a better team but not necessarily the Astros, they did get draft picks for the loss of Valverde. The players given up for Tejada have mostly been inconsequential (though his salary was not).

    Sure, I think there are missteps–Kaz Matsui and Miguel Tejada are the ones that come to mind first. But, by most accounts, the farm system is improving, and with a host of draft picks this year, I think things are looking up. The extension makes sense because by 2012, Wade will have his players in place. If the team isn’t improved by then, maybe it will be time for something different. But I respectfully disagree that this was a mistake. He inherited a bunch of bad things–bloated roster, owner who expected to win right away with subpar talent, and a threadbare farm system. I think progress is being made.

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  4. Joe R says:

    Dude, Carlos Lee, .300 BA, HR’s, I don’t see a problem.

    Italicized for sarcasm.

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    • lincolndude says:

      Nothing wrong with having Carlos Lee on your team. At 3/55 though, now? Yeah, that’s not so great.

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      • JoeR43 says:

        Exactly. He’s a fine player, just not $55MM worth of fine.

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      • The A Team says:

        Especially when you’re giving him everyday reps in the field. If you could stash him in the DH with a plus defender taking turns in the OF, that might help his value to a club.

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      • OremLK says:

        Carlos Lee has little to do with Ed Wade’s performance as a general manager, in any case. He was signed by the previous GM, and he has an ironclad no-trade clause which he will not void because he has ranching interests in the Houston area. Lee has been clear about that.

        Berkman and Oswalt also have NTCs, but the way. Maybe they would waive them for the right team, maybe not, but Wade’s hands are tied here too because owner Drayton McLane loves the two guys and considers them franchise players. He would not approve a trade.

        So basically the only players they can trade are ones under team control, like Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez. These guys are inexpensive and productive. Rodriguez has two years of team control and Pence has four… Pence will likely be a veteran cornerstone of the team once it is rebuilt, and Wade may plan to trade Rodriguez at the deadline or next winter.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      He’s been worth the money so far.

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  5. DWrek says:

    Maybe McLane is just doing his buddy a favor and giving him a 2 year deal before he leaves knowing new ownership probably wouldnt resign him.

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  6. jfish26101 says:

    Wade may not be a great or even good GM, he gets labeled a horrible or bad GM far to often…especially on this site. I think it’s been widely covered McLane interferes with the running of the team and wants to stay somewhat competitive. While rebuilding would have been the best course for the team, that really isn’t an option for Wade. As tpack said, he was handed a team full of bad contracts and a poor farm system with the expectations of winning right away.

    Also keep in mind the core of players the Phillies are enjoying right now (Utley,Howard, Rollins, Victorino, Hamels) were brought in while he was at the helm. Even if you don’t want to give him an ounce of credit for helping build that team, he didn’t tear it apart either despite having multiple opportunities to trade all of them as prospects for marginal MLB upgrades and immense pressure to win. I’ve actually talked to Wade about his dismissal from Phily and he had specific examples of situations where he felt he may have been able to buy himself some job security by trading Utley specifically for one of the A’s pitchers (Mulder or Zito) but didn’t because he knew the team was close.

    Don’t put him on a top GM list but he really doesn’t deserve being widely considered one of the worst either.

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    • OremLK says:

      Thank you. Good post.

      Wade is terrible in free agency and only so-so in trades, but I really feel that player development is a strength of his.

      This slow, wasteful route is the only way owner Drayton McLane is allowing him to rebuild, so it’s hard to blame Wade for his overall strategy.

      Regarding the specifics–like I said. Terrible in free agency. I don’t know that Wade will be a good fit for Houston in a few years when the farm is rebuilt and they’re starting to become contenders again, but in the meantime, he’s okay.

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    • The A Team says:

      The Philly players are a result of Mike Arbuckle taking over the draft. Prior to stealing him away from the Braves, the Phillies performed terribly in the draft.

      I consider him one of the worst because of his penchant to pay for mediocrity and name recognition (see Lyon, Brandon). It seems he has improved some since his Phillies days when he was unequivocally atrocious, but he has a long way to go before he’s a respectable or thoroughly employable GM.

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      • dkrell13 says:

        That’s a fair point re: Arbuckle. However, drafting early and often tends to forgive bad picks and Arbuckle certainly had his share of draft day disappointments, especially in the first round. It’s also worth pointing out that Arbuckle’s success rate markedly improved with the hiring of Ed Wade/Marty Woelver (the latter, a hire of the fmr, providing talent evaluation) in 97. That year, the year of the burrell draft, was the gamechanger.

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      • OremLK says:

        Wade hired Bobby Heck as his scouting director who has an excellent track record and has been doing well for Houston the past two years.

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      • jfish26101 says:

        I don’t believe this is entirely fair either. The GM has considerable control over the early picks from what I’ve heard because they are the biggest investment. The further along the draft gets, the less involvement the GM has but they are still involved. So finding guys after round 5-10, I’m fine giving all of the credit to a scouting director (which is hired by the GM no?) but the GM should get at least some credit for the team’s early selections.

        Burrell = 1998 1st round pick
        Myers = 1999 1st round pick
        Utley = 2000 1st round pick
        Floyd = 2001 1st round pick
        Hamels = 2002 1st round pick

        Besides them, you have Victornio (2005 Rule V pick?) and Howard/Madsen were found in the 5th rounds of their respective drafts I believe. I wont give him all of the credit for building the Phillies we see today but he should get some.

        Ed Wade started as an intern and worked his way up to GM. Despite what we may think of him, he continues to get jobs so he must be doing something right despite the general fans criticizing him for everything wrong while giving him zero credit for anything done right.

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      • jfish26101 says:

        Arbuckle was there in ’92 before Wade was GM so I guess you can’t credit Wade with hiring him but my point about the GM having considerable control over early picks still holds. Remember, I’m not saying he is a great or even good GM but I think he often gets unfairly labeled as one of the worst GMs in baseball.

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    • B N says:

      I can’t comment on if Ed Wade is a good GM or not (I see enough information on either side, I’d have to assume he’s around average though). However, I think the following comment is the bigger issue at hand:

      “I think it’s been widely covered McLane interferes with the running of the team and wants to stay somewhat competitive.”

      That is the kiss of death for a GM. Given where the Astros are, there is no way they could get competitive in the immediate future doing that. Looking at the Astros, I am seeing the early 2000′s Orioles. A team that needs to trade off its useful parts and rebuild the core, then make some FA signings to round it when the core is good.

      But if your boss says “No, we have to keep Oswalt” then you’re screwed. Imagine the return for trading Oswalt in 2007. Or even the start of 2008. Now imagine trading him today. I doubt one could get half the return. That was part of why the O’s were so bad for so long. The owner couldn’t stand to see them suck for a year or two in order to be competitive after that. Instead you hold onto your good players until they lose their skills and their value, have middle of the road draft position, and keep high team salaries relative to performance.

      At this point, they may as well re-up Wade though. The Astros don’t appear to have much left worth trading that isn’t a core piece (i.e. Wandy and Pence). Maybe they should still try to move Oswalt and Berkman at midseason, but if the owner insists on keeping them there’s not much any GM can do about it.

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  7. The Hit Dog says:

    I think Ed Wade is a bad GM, but I don’t think you took more than a half step toward proving it in your article. You say that it’s too early to judge his draft classes (it is); that he’s avoided signing questionable long-term contracts (he has); and that he’s not responsible for the bad contracts presently hamstringing the team (he’s not). So…

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  8. CJ says:

    I’m an Astros fan, and I’m not particularly excited about extending Wade, but it’s more of a “blah” move rather than a terrible one. The Astros’ line is that Wade is being extended for his work in improving the farm system, and that the extension is necessary in order to allow him to continue with the current program for improving the lower ranks of the system. You can agree or disagree (I come closer to disagreeing) with that justification, but it’s not an unreasonable basis for the decision. I think a lot of Astros’ fans cut Wade some slack because of the total organizational mess he faced when he took over as GM.

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  9. Steve says:

    FA relievers everywhere rejoice!

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  10. Jason J says:

    So many people defending what amounts to be a mediocre GM. There have been many GM hires lately that have resulted in good to great moves for the team. Why settle for mediocre? He may not be terrible, but shouldn’t you be looking for the best?

    McLane is probably the main culprit here, however. As long as he owns the team, it most likely won’t get better.

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    • JoeR43 says:

      I do agree sometimes the Astros get slammed too much on here, but there is something to be said about not looking to get his team out of baseball purgatory. Unless the idea is unloading guys like Feliz and Lyon in the near future for prospects (who knows, maybe it is, Houston has the resources to sink cost and buy prospects w/ expiring contracts later).

      I’m shocked Berkman is never involved in trade talks and I can see him being moved at some point in 2010 to a team like Seattle or Oakland (or maybe Texas if Chris Davis continues to perform below projections).

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      • jfish26101 says:

        The cornerstones of the team have no trade clauses. Oswalt, Berkman, Lee, etc aren’t going anywhere. You couple that with the owner interfering and it is a difficult situation.

        I don’t think there is anything wrong with defending someone being labeled as one of the worst GMs in baseball when his hands are tied behind his back and his former team (a team he helped build) just won the WS. It isn’t about settling for mediocrity, it’s about fairly judging him. He is a nice guy and I get tired of seeing people dump on him many of which are just talking out of their hinds. If you think McLane is the problem, then say that and cut him just a little slack. I wouldn’t put him on a list of great GMs but he could be in the ball park of average (perhaps a little over or under, hard to say given the situation he is in now) if he were free to do what he wants I imagine.

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      • OremLK says:

        “The cornerstones of the team have no trade clauses. Oswalt, Berkman, Lee, etc aren’t going anywhere. You couple that with the owner interfering and it is a difficult situation.”

        Exactly. I’m shocked by how little most people seem to understand this about Wade’s situation. Lee will not waive his no-trade clause. Ever. Nobody would take him without massive cash considerations even if he did. Berkman and Oswalt would only even consider waiving theirs for the right team, which makes it much more difficult to trade them; couple that with an owner unlikely to ever approve a trade for any of the three, and Wade is beyond stuck.

        He’s made bad choices in free agency. No doubt about that. But how about giving him a little credit for the things he’s done well? Hiring scouting director Bobby Heck and actually getting in some good drafts. The Michael Bourn trade. Moving Pudge Rodriguez and actually getting something back for him. Offering arbitration to Valverde and getting a pair of valuable draft picks in return. These are just a few examples.

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  11. Here’s what we said, amongst other things at:
    http://gameofinches.blogspot.com/2010/02/ed-wade-giving-extention-so-being-so.html

    “Since taking over the GM position in Houston towards the bitter end of the 2007 season, Wade has made the following moves (courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors) of significance (all contract data is courtesy of Cot’s Contracts):

    1. Signing Kaz Matsui to a 3-year, $16.5 million deal. Matsui has been worth a cumulative +2.5 WAR through the first two years of his contract. 117 players, including 18 second basemen, were at least that valuable last season, according to Fangraphs.
    2. Extended Brian Moehler to a 2009 contract worth $2.3 million. Moehler was not even worth +1 WAR last season. Given the market value of a win in 2010 (~$3.5 million) this signing — an undeniable waste of limited resources — could have been worse I suppose. Why bother paying for less than a single additional win when you’re a sub-.500 team? It’s not like Moehler’s +1.2 WAR 2008 lit the world of expectations on fire…
    3. Signing Pudge to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal. Despite Pudge’s sub-1 WAR 2009 season, I actually like this deal. The Astros got a good defensive catcher on the cheap. Pudge only played 2/3 of a season and Fangraph’s WAR system does not take in to account Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAR) due to the difficulty in calculating it, but CHONE pegs Pudge as a +3 run defender next season. I see Pudge more as 1.5 WAR catcher full time and you really good do worse considering the scarcity of talent at the position (see Mets, New York).
    4. Trading Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett to his former team, the Phillies, for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo. Michael Bourn alone made this deal a win. Despite a poor showing in 2008, Bourn was worth +4.2 WAR in center last season, thanks to an above average balance in fielding and hitting ability. Lidge on the other hand, despite the no-blown-saves bounce back season in 2008, was only worth +2.2 WAR in 2008 and a below replacement level -0.7 WAR last season. Geary is awful (+0.1 WAR since 2008) and Costanzo is a non-factor who was traded to the Orioles in the Tejada deal. Bruntlett is also pretty bad, for what it’s worth (-1.1 WAR since being traded).
    5. Traded Juan Gutierrez, Chad Qualls and Chris Burke to the Dbacks for Jose Valverde. It is important to note that RPs are traditionally overvalued. They get a very limited innings load, limiting their value, and its hard to judge their true talent level. No reliever was worth +3 WAR last season and only ten were worth even +2 WAR. Qualls has been worth +3.3 WAR since the trade, has a year left under team control, and has been paid less than $4 million over the past two seasons (he will make ~$4.2 million in 2010). Gutierrez made his team debut last season and was worth +1.5 WAR. He’s is not arbitration eligible until 2011. No one cares about Chris Burke. On the other hand, Valverde was not worth even +1 WAR in either 2008 or 2009. He was cumulatively worth +1.5 WAR for the Astros, or what Juan Gutierrez did last season. On the other hand, whereas Juan Gutierrez was paid something in the ballpark of $400,000 in 2009, Jose Valverde was paid $12.7 million during his stay in Houston.
    6. Traded Chad Reineke for Randy Wolf. 2008 was not a good year for the Padres selling low on players (see Edmonds, Jim). Wolf posted +1.1 WAR part-season in a meager 70 innings for the Astros. On the other hand, not even Oakland or San Diego can house the flyballs Chad Reineke serves up.
    7. Traded Luis Bryan, Robert Bono and Jorge Jimenez for Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom is an average RP talent who has posted +1.4, +0.8 and +0.0 WAR seasons in the past three seasons. He is getting paid ~$1.6 million in 2010 and who knows how much money through his next two years of arbitration — probably more than the $3.5 million market value per win. Fangraphs doesn’t think too highly of any of the three prospects (especially Bryan, who drew 0 walks in 111 minor league PA’s) Houston traded away — largely because the Houston farm system doesn’t have any prospects to trade away — but I disagree with the conclusion that “at such a low cost, this move makes a lot of sense for Houston.” Lindstrom is turning 30 with decreasing control and largely succeed in 2007 and 2008 with sub-3% HR/FB rates. That’s abnormally low, even for a relief pitcher. The average relief pitcher’s HR/FB rate last season was 8.7%.
    8. Traded Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Mike Costanzo (see #4), Dennis Sarfate and Troy Patton for Miguel Tejada. Tejada was worth a quality +5.7 WAR during his stay upon the Astros. He was also handsomely rewarded, getting paid $26 million in the process. Turns out Tejada, like many other Dominican players, lied about his age — not that that was the Astros fault. What Ed Wade got was a player at “market value” at best. Eleven other SS were worth at least +5.7 over the past two seasons, but none of them were acquirable through free agency. Luke Scott has hit 48 HR since moving to Baltimore (cumulative +3.7 WAR in just over 1,000 PA) to Tejada’s 27 and has cost Baltimore less than $3 million in salary (and he will make just over $4 million in 2010, while remaining under team control for 2011). Albers has provided the O’s with +1.0 WAR of value over the last two seasons and the rest of the players have not (nor will they do) jack for Baltimore. It seems like Houston took on a lot of salary for just +1 WAR of value, while the O’s saved a ton and filled that 1 WAR gap by signing Cesar Izturis (+1.2 WAR last season for 2-years, $5 million. In terms of absolute value, the Astros managed a fine trade, but from the economic perspective — that of the marginal valued added in respect to the cost — the Astros get screwed. Between Albers (who was just as valuable as Moehler was for $2 million less) and Scott — collectively worth +4.7 WAR over the past two seasons — the Astros added +1 WAR in Miguel Tejada at the cost of $22 million of payroll.”

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    • OremLK says:

      “5. Traded Juan Gutierrez, Chad Qualls and Chris Burke to the Dbacks for Jose Valverde. It is important to note that RPs are traditionally overvalued. They get a very limited innings load, limiting their value, and its hard to judge their true talent level. No reliever was worth +3 WAR last season and only ten were worth even +2 WAR. Qualls has been worth +3.3 WAR since the trade, has a year left under team control, and has been paid less than $4 million over the past two seasons (he will make ~$4.2 million in 2010). Gutierrez made his team debut last season and was worth +1.5 WAR. He’s is not arbitration eligible until 2011. No one cares about Chris Burke. On the other hand, Valverde was not worth even +1 WAR in either 2008 or 2009. He was cumulatively worth +1.5 WAR for the Astros, or what Juan Gutierrez did last season. On the other hand, whereas Juan Gutierrez was paid something in the ballpark of $400,000 in 2009, Jose Valverde was paid $12.7 million during his stay in Houston.”

      I just want to note that Houston wound up getting two draft picks (#19 and #33) out of this deal for the upcoming draft. Also, they were able to trade Pudge Rodriguez for two C prospects.

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  12. vivaelpujols says:

    The Michael Bourn trade was a huge plus from Ed Wade’s standpoint.

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