Let's start the week off by looking at what the Astros did before and during the 2009 season. No major trades went down, nor were there any major signings. In fact, it sounds much like I'm sure this offseason will. Please give me your own take on the moves in the comments and what grade you'd give to Ed Wade for last season.
Move One: Signed Mike Hampton - The lefty Rob Lowe came at a bargain, earning 2 million dollars with 2 million in performance bonuses. I'm not sure if he met those, though. Hampton proved to be just what we thought he'd be: a little below league average and not very durable. For the money, though? You're not going to get much more.
Move Two: Signed Ivan Rodriguez - As a catcher with the Astros, it's fair to say Pudge failed. He started enough to break the record, but was pretty terrible when he did play. His OPS+ of 75 seemed to belie what fans saw on the field. It appeared that Pudge was having a meaningful impact on games, though his stat showed differently. Look at his splits in close and late situations, though: .359/.388/.406. Go even deeper, and you can see his numbers in high leverage situations: .280/.313/.320. Of course, this was offset by the fact that Rodriguez struck out all three times before getting to the late innings. He was a frustrating player, but his signing wasn't terrible, just ill-conceived.
Move Three: Signed Jason Michaels - Another guy who should have been better than he was. His career average of .269 should have made the Astros bench stronger, but Michaels couldn't put it together and struggled for much of the season. It also didn't help that he wasn't the best defensive replacement as a fourth outfielder. Still, who else were you going to get for 750K?
Move Four: Signed Russ Ortiz - With Hampton, he formed the "Let's Hope the Old Pitchers Can Revive With Us...Oh, Wait, HGH and Steroids are Banned...We're Screwed" duo. It's not the catchiest of names, but it is effective.
Move Five: Re-signed Doug Brocail - Doug was a pleasant surprise in 2008, but injuries derailed him last season. Who'd have predicted that the 42-year old reliever would have injury trouble? They're usually so reliable...Considering Brocail had injury trouble two years before, the Astros did well by stocking up on relievers with minor league deals, just in case. Was it 2.75 million well spent? Probably not.
Move Six: Re-signed LaTroy Hawkins - As I mentioned in my reliever rundown, Hawkins proved to be a reliable reliever for a second straight year. Whether this was due to the league he was in or to some sort of mechanical adjustment, the Astros have more than reaped the reward for a 3.5 million dollar contract.
Move Seven: Claimed Jeff Fulchino - Waiver claims like this show just good your advance scouts and major league scouts have to be. Fulchino provided a nice addition to the bullpen when Backe and Brocail both got hurt. Plus, Fulchino came much, much cheaper than either Hawkins, Valverde or Brocail. Oh, by the way, according to FanGraphs, he was also worth 3.4 million, which is more than all three of those relievers combined.
Move Eight: Signed Aaron Boone - I won't be glib here, since Boone had to go through too much this season. I respect the hell out of him for coming back and playing late in the season, but the Astros had to have wanted more out of him on the left side of the infield than they got. Still, here's hoping Boone continues to be in good health and can be a productive player, if he so chooses.
Move Nine: Claimed Chris Coste - The former Phillie probably wishes he were in the World Series right now instead of the unemployment line. He should have been a lefty specialist off the bench, but hit worse against lefties than righties. Coste also didn't provide the pop the Astros needed when Berkman went down with an injury. Would they have been better served calling up Mark Saccomanno?
Move Ten: Traded away Ivan Rodriguez for Jose Vallejo and Matt Nevarez - This trade would have looked even better if the Rangers had made the playoffs and had to throw in another player. Still, the Astros basically paid 1.5 million for these two prospects. Not too shabby...
Move Eleven: Traded Drew Sutton for Jeff Keppinger - Boone's heart condition probably necessitated this trade to shore up the left side of the infield. As one of the commenters pointed out in the Mackanin post last week, Keppinger was only played at short after Mackanin put him there. Kepp did an okay job filling in for both Tejada and Blum. This trade happened before Chris Johnson broke his hand, but was certainly fortuitous. The Astros really didn't have anyone who could fill in for Blum on a regular basis.
Move Twelve: Claimed German Duran - This was a move for next season. We'll have to wait to see if Duran can contribute before passing judgement on it.
Overall, it was a mixed bag for GM Ed Wade. He made all the moves he could with no budget, tinkering around the margins and getting somewhat solid players. In both trades, it appears he got value, as Kepp is a good bench player and Drew Sutton didn't make much of an impact in Cincy, getting 66 big-league at-bats with an OPS+ of 68.
The Pudge signing was mandated by Drayton (I think), but give Wade credit for standing up to his owner enough to flip Rodriguez for some value. As disappointing as 2009 was in so many ways, Wade hasn't been among them. He's proven he can let Bobby Heck work his magic in the draft and can make those little moves that Gerry Hunsicker used to make so well.
Overall grade: B