As these Winter Meetings open, I'm reminded of another time when the week's action went slowly. Five years ago, I'd just started writing for TCB. The fine gentlemen in charge wanted me to cover the Winter Meetings, catching any breaking news as it happened.
That resulted in three underwhelming moves for two relievers and a third baseman.
It also resulted in Brandon Lyon signing with the Astros.
Back then, Houston spent the Winter Meetings quietly. The team juuuust missed the playoffs in 2008 and had fallen under .500 in 2009. It also lost key pieces in Miguel Tejada, LaTroy Hawkins, Jose Valverde and Doug Brocail.
Writing that last sentence made me so, so sad.
But, we had Ed Wade on the job and he went about remaking those Astros for bigger and better things. He tried to replace Tejada's production by signing Pedro Feliz, claiming that he'd hit 20 home runs in Minute Maid Park.
Pedro Feliz did not do this. He also didn't provide much defensive value nor did he hit.
But, back then, we didn't know that yet.
Next up, Wade traded for injury-prone reliever Matt Lindstrom. This seemingly would replace Jose Valverde's production. Or LaTroy Hawkins' production, depending on where Lindstrom pitched. The Astros didn't give up much value, as none of the three players traded away ever saw the major leagues.
Still, Lindstrom didn't make an impact and was dealt away the next winter for two players who never made the show.
Finally, as the meetings were winding down, Ed Wade made one last move. He signed Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15 million deal.
During this first year of watching the meetings closely, I vainly tried to defend this move, even as most mocked the Astros for it. In comparison, Lyon signed for $21 million less than Andrew Miller got. Counter-point? Andrew Miller is probably better than Brandon Lyon was.
Houston came away with a new starter at third base and two new relievers. Couldn't you see this Winter Meeting ending in a similar fashion?
The biggest moves Houston made that winter were signing Jason Michaels two days after the Meetings ended and picking up Brett Myers in January. That should tell you all you need to know about the Astros of that era, too.
But, thinking back to that winter, the Lyon signing stood out more than anything as the cornerstone of those meetings.
It happened late. It happened out of the blue. It was too much money for a middle reliever who maybe could close.
It came to be a defining move for Ed Wade. Heck, you could argue that those Winter Meetings were the defining moments of Ed Wade's tenure. Stuck between rebuilding and contending, the Astros spent on relievers and a past-his-prime third baseman. The Astros won two more games in 2010 than they had in 2009, but the sell-off started that year.
That made the 2009 Winter Meetings the last ones I covered for a team looking to get better. In the next four meetings, Houston was a seller, a team that bottomed out in more ways than one. Buzz surrounded the team last season, but were they ever going to be players for Shin-Soo Choo?
Now, though, Houston experienced a taste of success. They avoided 100 losses and avoided the No. 1 overall pick. They made a 19-game improvement and are talking about building on that improvement by making the roster better for 2015.
Back then, I defended Wade just like we defend Luhnow now. It was a crazy time. I just hope I don't have to defend another Brandon Lyon signing for Luhnow. I doubt anyone he adds will come to that, but that last-minute, late-night move from five years ago stays with me.
You never know what's going to happen this week, for good or for ill.