Ed Wade would be a good GM, if the Astros were a good team

With the Astros having been entrenched as the worst team in the NL for the past few weeks, one would be hard pressed to find much of anything to praise Ed Wade for in constructing this club. Certainly his willingness to over pay for a Coors Field-enhanced Kaz Matsui in 2007 and a proclivity to ink relievers to higher than need be contracts have been and will be fair criticisms to direct towards Mr. Wade. As we know, it’s not what a GM does in any one offseason, it’s what he does over the course of multiple off seasons, which defines him as a failure or success.

I don’t want to turn this into a "defend Ed Wade at all costs post", because at this point we here at TCB have done that enough and the Astros record doesn’t really give me much of a leg to stand on at any rate. That all being said, I would like to make a different sort of argument, not to necessarily posit that Wade is a "good" GM or anything like that. Instead, I would like to do exactly what un-biased critics/evaluators cannot do when evaluating the tenure of a major league GM: look at them in a one season vacuum.

Obviously, the 2010 season is barely 1/3 over with so Ed Wade’s offseason decisions have over 100 games to make him look worse or possibly better than he does today. At least on the pitching side of things, his acquisitions: a hard throwing closer with plus stuff (Matt Lindstrom), an experienced set up man coming off an outstanding 2009 season (Brandon Lyon), a workhorse type starter looking to invigorate his career (Brett Myers) are moves that were and are more suited for a GM of a team which expected to seriously contend in the following season. Put another way, if Ed Wade was in charge of a team that was a few pieces away from an earnest pennant chase, he would be looked at as a genius. Instead, on a team which has struggled to win one out of every three games, Wade hasn’t seen any praise heaped his way.

Think about it this way: while even the best teams in baseball have holes on their 25 man roster, their holes are fewer than a team like the Astros. The four major moves Ed Wade made this off season, taken in vacuum, appear to be strong decisions made by a GM who believes his team has a true chance to compete. Matt Lindstrom certainly has the talent to close on a contending club, and given the chance to compete, he has shown that there are few other ninth inning men who can match him. Maybe on a team which had a closer by committee the previous season (Tampa Bay in 2009, for instance), Lindstrom could have came out on top in a spring training competition to become the full time closer?

Brandon Lyon’s contract is tougher to justify, but his resume, that of an experienced set up man whose calling card is ground balls and control pitching, certainly would appeal to a contending team who desires a steady, if not unspectacular bridge to their electric closer. Thus far, Lyon has defied his critics and has done exactly what Ed Wade brought him in to do: succeed when called upon and maintain the few late inning leads his teammates have built. That contract is the bugaboo, and one can argue that any GM who signs a reliever to a $15 million contract would never be able to build a winning ball club. While that may be true, Lyon has performed as well as anyone could have expected, and I believe would be able to pitch in the bullpen on most any team in the majors.

T

he move that most strongly resembles that of a perfect "good team" move is the signing of Brett Myers. While he is a number three (or given Wandy Rodriguez’ struggles, a number two) starter on a bad Astros team, a Cincinnati, St. Louis, Los Angeles team ball club could pencil Myers into their number four or five slot to complete a strong starting rotation. In all eleven of his starts for the Astros, Myers has pitched at least six innings, saving the bullpen and giving his team a chance to win. That sort of consistent production is exactly what good teams get from their starters. With a competent offense, Myers starts should have resulted in more than just six wins for the Astros, and I will assume would have for a division leader as well.

A last place team’s struggles are their own, and from top to bottom more blame should be going around than praise. This argument (if you can call it that) I just presented does pick and choose certain positive moves while disregarding negative ones (Feliz, Pedro for example). After watching this team lose with ease at times, it would be easy to curse the name of Ed Wade with every Cory Sullivan out or Tim Byrdak inning pitched. For what it’s worth though, Wade has brought in three extremely positive contributors in 2010- they would just have been better suited for just about any other team than the Astros.

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