Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ed Wade's Contract Was Extended: Why?

It looks like Ed Wade will be the Astros General Manager for awhile longer as his contract is extended through 2012. The timing of this move is a good time to look at some of the moves he made. A sentence-by sentence breakdown of the section of his Wikipedia page detailing the "highlights" of his tenure in Houston (which i've placed in bold) makes me scratch my head and wonder why?

On November 8, 2007, Wade traded relief pitcher Brad Lidge, along with reserve infielder Eric Bruntlett, to the Phillies in exchange for second-year outfielder Michael Bourn, middle relieverGeoff Geary, and third base prospect Mike Costanzo.

In all fairness, Lidge has become unpredictable from year-to-year (i.e. he was terrible in '09). However, Lidge going through 2008 without blowing a save and helping the team he got traded to win a World Series doesn't bode well for Wade's argument for getting an extension. (Event though Lidge's replacement Jose Valverde had a good season). On the bright side, they were able to get rid of Eric Bruntlett who has been a non-impact in Philly

And what did they get in return?

Getting him may look good now but a closer look shows that he can steal bases and play defense but not much else. Sure, he had a respectable average (.285) and on-base percentage (.354) but he still was a slightly below average offensive player and was aided by a high BABIP .367. In other words, don't expect a repeat of 2009 and don't expect Bourn to carry this team to a title, unlike the player he got traded for.

Geary has already come and gone. He had one really good season ('08) but struggled with injuries and on-field performance in ('09) at which point he was granted free agency.

The third player that they gave as a throw in (Mike Costanzo) is a non-factor in this process as he was traded to Baltimore in the next deal to be discussed.

Verdict: Epic Fail. I don't care how bad Lidge struggled in '09 or what he does from here on but his contributions in '08 are worth more than Michael Bourn and Geoff Geary.

On December 12, 2007, Wade acquired shortstop Miguel Tejada in exchange for Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Costanzo, Dennis Sarfate, and Troy Patton. The trade was controversial, in part because Tejada was mentioned as a possible steroid user in the Mitchell Report, which was released the day after the trade.

Well, it could have been worse. At least he didn't give Gagne $10 million the week before the Mitchell Report came out. In the last couple years, Tejada hasn't exactly performed like someone worth trading five players for. He's been a fairly average player, (although he has hit .298, its a fairly empty .298 as drawing walks seems to be a foreign concept to him). For what it's worth he has been an All-Star the last couple years but he's still not the same player he was in Oakland and Baltimore. Miguel Tejada Fun Fact: He's led the league in Grounding Into Double Plays in five of the last six years.

What they gave up to get Tejada:

Even if this trade was just a straight up Tejada for Scott, this trade would already lean slightly in favor of Baltimore. He's hit more homers the last couple years (23/25), his OPS+ has been higher (111/115), he's still younger than Tejada (31) and doesn't have any steroid controversy surrounding him. While his batting average is lower (.257/.258), Scott is still a better bet offensively and likely has more productive years left than Tejada.

He's still young (27), he has shown flashes of promise but the jury is still out on him. He had a strong '08 but struggled a bit in '09. Tough to tell what future brings but Baltimore looks to at least get some productivity out of him.

Mike Costanzo:

Non-factor. Hasn't even played in the bigs.

A bit older than Albers with a lower ceiling. He's had a couple pedestrian seasons filling space in the Baltimore bullpen.

Troy Patton:

Hasn't played in the bigs since the trade.

Verdict: Another bad trade. Not as horrible as the Lidge trade but Wade still gave away too much to get Tejada. On the Tejada for Scott level alone, it slightly favors Baltimore but doesn't look too bad for Houston. However, if Albers and Sarfate end up being productive arms for Baltimore this trade could still turn out to be a pretty big fail.

The day after the Mitchell Report, he traded Chad Qualls, Chris Burke, and Juan Gutierrez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for closer Jose Valverde.

While Jose Valverde has since moved on to Detroit, he did have a couple productive seasons closing for the Astros (more than what you could say about the first trades discussed).

What the Astros gave up to get him:

Qualls has had a pretty solid couple years in Arizona. Got his first extended look as a closer last year saving 24 games. His full impact on this trade could still be limited by injuries though.

Only played 86 uninspiring games for Arizona with a .194/.310/.273 line before moving on to San Diego. Non-factor as far as this trade is concerned.

Pitched fairly well in 65 games last year. Still fairly young (26) and what he does from here on will affect the balance of this trade. For what it's worth the message left by his Baseball-Reference page's sponsor is pretty amusing.

Verdict: As of now, the Astros have the slight edge. However, a few more solid years from Qualls and/or Gutierrez could make this another lopsided trade against the Astros, anyone noticing a trend here?

On June 25, 2008, Wade was engaged in a dispute with Astros reliever Shawn Chacon. After a while, Chacon burst and grabbed Wade by the neck and threw him to the ground. The Astros suspended Chacon indefinitely. This event eventually led to Shawn Chacon
being released. He has not played in Major League Baseball since.

Sure, this has nothing to do with horrible trades but an amusing story of epic-failure on both ends. Looking at what Chacon had "done" for his career (2005 not withstanding) even $2 million seems like a steep price. At current tally this is 2 bad trades, a 3rd trade that could place him at a disadvantage and a player that thought so highly of him he decided to do a re-enactment of the Latrell Spreewell/P.J. Carlesimo incident from the 1990s. Also, coming from a player that wasn't good enough to make this as big of a deal as previous said incident has also got to say something.

In December of 2009, Wade and Astros signed reliever Brandon Lyon to a 3 year/15 million dollar contract. Tom Verducci of commented,"Two different GMs were aghast to hear the Astros are paying $15 million over three years to reliever Brandon Lyon. Both of them had to have the numbers repeated to them twice, thinking surely they had misheard what will be one of the worst contracts of the winter.

Under the don't knock it till you try it philosophy, it's tough to slam a GM for a move that hasn't even played out yet. However, with his track record from the last few years, any move he makes with this type of reaction needs a bit more scrutiny. Sure, anytime a middle reliever gets signed to 2 or more years it is a stretch but GMs stretch for players all the time.

Looking at Lyon's last five seasons, he probably should have only gotten a year or two but i'm willing to at least give some benefit of the doubt before signing off on this move being an epic fail. A first look at his numbers show that he's had an OPS+ over 120 in 3 of the last 4 years (including 2 seasons at over 160+). If his past history holds up the quality of this signing comes down to how he is handled. If they let Lyon do his thing in middle relief, the pay will still be a bit high but at least the contract won't be a Carlos Silva level atrocity. If they try to put him in the closer's role, then the talk of how bad this contract is will have more than enough merit.

Looking at what the Astros have done on the field since Wade took over doesn't bode well for him either as they have won 73, 86 and 74 games the last 3 years. Based on the trades he's made, the general direction the team has gone in and the way people are looking at moves that haven't had a chance to be a bust yet, it doesn't seem to fit the profile of someone that would get their contract extended. But look at the bright side, at least the Pirates won't be lonely at the bottom of the NL Central for the next few years.

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