Far be it from me to argue about something just to get a post cranked out...I mean, there is so much going on this winter, how can you NOT write 1,000 words on Houston's baseball team every day...
I know, I know, it's hard to come up with column ideas when the team has gone into hibernation for the rest of the winter. Yes, they signed Josh Banks, a guy with not enough control or strikeouts to get too excited about. Still, it's been Snoozeville around Astrodom. Which is why a new blog post by Brian McTaggart and a GM rankings of sorts from FanGraphs brought around the following, where I attempt to defend Ed Wade's incompetence.
It's something we are contractually obligated to do here at TCB every couple of weeks. It may just be wishful thinking, but we also might just be the lone voice crying out in the wilderness*.
*Don't tell me that's just more wishful thinking. It ruins the whole thought!
Ed Wade gets a lot of grief over some bad signings. Was it the smartest thing in the world to give Kaz Matsui and Brandon Lyon big deals? No, not at all. Baseball commentators, both reporters and bloggers, have ripped Wade for singing Lyon to a three year deal. I don't think it was all that bad, though. Yes, Lyon did benefit from luck last season. He was coming off a good year and cashed in with a good contract. It's still half of what Wade would have paid Valverde and he'll get 80% of the production. That's not a bad tradeoff. Am I thrilled that it's a multi-year deal? Nope. But it's not the worst contract I've seen either.
In fact, I'd say Wade is being extremely judicious in not overpaying players right now. It would be easy to make Drayton happy by locking up fan favorites Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez to long-term deals. After all, each is young and sure to save the Astros some money long-term if they signed a multi-year contract instead of continuing through arbitration. Still, Wade isn't rushing to give any of them big money right now, especially coming off great seasons. A smart GM will strike just before a player's value is at it's maximum. With Bourn and Wandy, you'd be paying a premium for a player who may never reach those same playing heights again. That's a good GM move in my book.
Continuing on, Wade and Bobby Heck have overseen dramatic improvement in the Houston farm system since they came on board two seasons ago. Heck has had two very good drafts and added some impact players to the system. The big league team may be aging somewhat, but they do have glimmers of hope on the farm and in two years may be bursting with players ready to make a splash.
On a smaller scale, look at the Valverde decision. If he and the Tigers can come to an agreement, the Astros would get the 19th overall pick, a supplementary round pick in the low 30's. Basically, they'd be trading Valverde for Lyon and two very young prospects. With the way Heck's been picking, both of those kids could end up having early grades of at least a B. That's a trade I think the Astros would win. Not a game-changer, but he would have gotten some good value for a guy who wasn't resigning here anyway.
Progress is slow. It takes time for trends to reverse themselves. Wade got a bad rep at the end of his Phillies tenure and it hasn't been helped by things like the Chacon brawl and some bad contracts. He still hasn't gotten fleeced in a trade and made all but one right decision on free agent arbitration this offseason. Bringing Hawk back could have been the easy move, but Wade did get younger in the 'pen. That counts for something. I'm not putting Wade up for any Executive of the Year awards, but I think it's unfair to group him with guys like Omar Minaya and Dayton Moore.