Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Case For/Against Ed Wade

It's now been 24-36 hours since we found out about the dismissal of Ed Wade. How about a point/counterpoint?

Juvenile Court Clerk

Once Jim Crane was officially approved as the new Astros owner, he hinted very strongly that changes would be made, and quickly at that. Most correctly guessed that the dismissal of Ed Wade would be one of those changes. After all, Houston had just wrapped up the worst season in franchise history while essentially fielding a team of nothing but rookies and role players. On top of that the farm system, while improving, was still considered one of the poorer in baseball. But I argue that the cause of our dereliction wasn't Wade, but McLane and his bipolar approach towards team building.

When Wade joined the organization in 2007 the writing was already on the wall concerning the decline of the franchise, but McLane had not yet found his reading glasses. Wade was tasked with rebuilding the farm system while keeping the parent club competitive. Oh, and payroll, despite being burdened with the Carlos Lee contract, was being cut at the same time. And Eddie tried. His first big move was trading our increasingly expensive demoralized closer Brad Lidge for a promising young outfielder named Michael Bourn in the first of his multiple deals with the Phillies. Then it is widely assumed that McLane directs Wade to trade half of our AAA team for Miguel Tejeda, who promptly ages faster than Robin Williams in Jack.

The next of Wade's major deals came when Houston surprisingly found themselves in a pennant race in the second half of the 2008 season. In moves that were almost universally laughed at at the time, Wade turned two non-prospects into Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, a solid SP and setup man for the stretch run. After just missing the post season, McLane decides it's time to tighten the purse strings a little more. Unable to resign Wolf, Wade is forced to find 40% of the starting rotation for less than $3M. Then, faced with the ever injured Kaz Matsui's latest injury, Wade turns AAAA IF Drew Sutton into fan favorite Jeff Keppinger.

And this pattern continued for the next couple years. Though he struggled filling holes through free agency on a bargain basement budget, he continued to find value through waiver claims and under the radar trades. Matt Lindstrom, Jose Valverde, Wesley Wright, Alberto Arias, Wilton Lopez, Jason Bourgeois, Nelson Figueroa, Matt Downs, Enerio Del Rosario, and Lucas Harrell were picked off other teams scrap piles and have provided decent, not great, but decent value to the Astros. He turned Kevin Cash, a non-factor, into Angel Sanchez, a serviceable infielder. Felipe Paulino became Clint Barmes, and now a supplemental draft pick. Pedro Feliz became David Carpenter.

Finally given the green light to go all in on a rebuild, Wade traded Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, and Michael Bourn over the past two season. While early indications are mixed on these four deals Houston has received some interesting pieces in return. Names like Jonathan Singleton, Jimmy Paredes, Jonathan Villar, Mark Melancon, Domingo Santana, Brett Oberholtzer, Jarred Cosart, and Paul Clemens should give Astros fans something to look forward to in a couple seasons when they join recent draft picks like George Springer and Mike Foltynewicz and young major leaguers J.D. Martinez and Jose Altuve.

In all, Wade was given a nigh-impossible task that became increasingly difficult as his time with Houston went on. Ownership interference and uncertainty will make even the best GM look silly at times, but I think when the Astros are atop the AL West, Ed Wade's fingerprints will be evident on the team.

The Constable

Where do you even start with building a case against Ed Wade? I completely respect the Juvenile Court Clerk's opinion that Drayton bears a large burden of the responsibility, but the firing of Ed Wade simply had to happen, even if it means that Jim Crane will be paying him for the next two seasons. Attendance is dwindling, fans are irate about the move to the American League, and, oh yeah, the team just had its worst season in franchise history, finishing 50 games under .500. The change just simply had to be made. Jim Crane just finished up a six-month process that saw his credibility challenged. Ask your average Astros fan what they know about Jim Crane, and you'll likely hear a response that has to do with allegations of racism.

Jim Crane has to get the fans' collective minds off of that, and off of the AL move. He has to make this franchise his own, and you don't start off on a $610m investment by leaving the previous owner's GM in place.

Ed made some solid moves. Picking Brett Myers off the scrap heap. Getting what he did for Hunter Pence. But Ed Wade made some indefensible moves. Signing Myers and Wandy to those long-term, expensive extensions. Kaz Matsui, Bill Hall, Miguel Tejada (yeah, he was an All-Star, but for a team that did not need to acquire a shortstop who aged two years in one Jeremy Schaap interview). Already writers and bloggers are trying to figure out which GM they'll be able to make fun of now. Wade never had a chance, his reputation was sealed, as a bumbling, middle reliever-lover, who was around simply to please the Phillies.

Wade started the rebuilding project, but when most feel like Michael Bourn was the better player of the Bourn/Pence tandem, and when Wade looked like he crapped the bed on the negotiations, it didn't exactly inspire confidence in his ability.

Could Ed Wade get the job done? Eventually, maybe. The Phillies certainly reaped the benefits of Ed Wade's beginning. But Wade was a polarizing figure who needed to go so that Crane could start to reinvent the franchise into one that could more adequately meet the extreme challenges the Astros are now facing. Drayton deserves to share the blame, but he's gone, too. So it is with Wade.