A lot has been made today of the importance of Javier Vazquez's contract. Vazquez comes to the Yanks at one year and $11.5 million dollars. Thus, many have speculated that all signs point to the fact that Yankees' GM, Brian Cashman, is setting himself up to shed payroll at a time when a bountiful crop of FA talent opens up on the market and Cashman can open up the Steinbrener's coffers. Think Joe Mauer catching Sabathia and Burnett, while batting in front of, behind—or whatever—of A-Rod and Teixeria. And that just would be the tip of the iceberg.
A lot has been said of the saviness of the Vazquez trade for Cashman precisely because of this (also because: how in the hell do you trade away the league leader in xFIP, who only makes $11.5 million, for Melky Cabrera?). Savvy moves by a GM. That's really not something I have heard said of a Houston GM in a long time.
Seriously, think about our signings.
Even the ones that turned out well were ridiculued at the time. Arbtration decisions? Caustic reactions. Last offseason? Splash signings of Jason Michaels, Ivan Rodriguez, and a trade that saw Drew Sutton depart for Jeff Keppinger. The year before? Kaz Matsui at three years and $16.5 million dollars. Don't forget the Miguel Tejada trade on the eve of the Mitchell report, or how much the Brad Lidge for Michael Bourn swap made your head explode throughout 2008. Even if the Valverde trade wasn't bad, by the time all was said and done, our farm system was pretty much desolate and people hated it. 2007? You have to love an offseason that sees Drayton McLane run Andy Pettitte out of town and bring in Carlos Lee and trade for Jason Jennings and sign Woody Williams to a two year deal on the basis of his ballpark enabled late-career-peak-season at Petco. 2006? Preston...ok, I'll stop.
The point is there hasn't been an offseason move, in awhile, in Houston that had a majority of pundits, fans, etc. all agreeing that a Houston Astros GM did something pretty savvy. This offseason has been no different. Painfully so, at times, actually.
But then, in the wake of the Vazquez for Cabrera hubub, it dawned on me: Ed Wade is stacking his chips up for 2013, just like Cashman is for 2011. The following players are off the books, if we want them to be, after 2012: everyone making anything meaningful in the way of salary. Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyon, Kaz Matsui, Roy Oswalt (could take a reduced buyout and walk away after 2011), Lance Berkman (technically his contract is out in 2011). Left on the books (hopefully, due to some "the time is ripe" extensions): Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, Jason Castro, Bud Norris, Feliepe Paulino, Wesley Wright, Sammy Gervacio, Chia Jen-Lo? Jordan Lyles? Jiovanni Meyer?! That entire combination costs what? $20-25 million to field? Throw in the likelihood of new ownership and there could easily be a $90 million pot of gold at the end of the hot stove rainbow.
I'm not trying to suggest that Wade should let Oswalt and Berkman walk away. In fact, he shouldn't. The point is, Wade came into Houston two years ago with no payroll flexibility and no farm system. In two years, Ed Wade could have an absurd about of payroll flexibility thanks to Bobby Heck, and co.'s farm system. All of this because Ed Wade hasn't signed anyone to a contract that impinges on the magical offseason of 2012.
That's right, there's method to the maddness...possibily.
Does that excuse the iffy of signings, or moves, that Wade has made? No. But Ed Wade won't be searching for guys on the fringe at that point. He'll targeting the top tier free agents. Whatever kind of analysis he's using at that point, it's hard to botch those (unless we through Prince Fielder a Carlos Lee type deal*). Depending on what happens in the next CBA, he probably won't even have to worry all the much about losing a ton of draft picks.
It's like a perfect storm. Ed Wade will get to put the garnishes on a team that he'll have worked for four years to make salvagable. The meat and potatoes will be the guys he's hung onto and the guys he's drafted. I'm almost ready to purchase my 2013 playoff tickets.
Of course, the problem with thesis that Ed Wade has been patiently playing the fool and/or just kind of screwing around for four years to set up a blockbust 2012 offseason has one flaw: it could be what the Mayan's were predicting would bring on the apocalypse. Can you imagine an entire slew of FanGraphs articles praising Ed Wade? Thinking about that possibility has more more convinced that the Mayans might have it right.
*I have no idea who exactly will and won't be in the 2012 Free Agent class, but Prince Fielder just fit the range and weight of the analogy I needed to make.