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.