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The Astros clean house: Ed Wade, Tal Smith fired

Nov 28, 2011, 8:09 AM EDT

Ed Wade

Shakeup time:  the Astros have announced that president of baseball operations Tal Smith and general manager Ed Wade have been fired. the moves come a week after Jim Crane took control of the team.  It was not terribly surprising.

The team said assistant general manager David Gottfried will serve as interim general manager but is not a candidate for the permanent position.  There are a lot of potential candidates including two obvious ones in former Astros GM and current Rays senior VP Gerry Hunsicker and current Rays GM Andrew Friedman. Ken Rosenthal names the Rangers’ Thad Levine or A.J. Preller and the Marlins’ Dan Jennings as potential candidates.

It’s been a nutso offseason as far as general manager musical chairs go, as the Orioles, Red Sox, Twins, Angels, Cubs and Padres have gotten new bosses. Now the Astros.  The winter meetings look to have more in the way of orientations and introductions than it will have trades and stuff.

As for the Astros, the next big thing after getting a new GM is to decide if manager Brad Mills stays on board.  A new guy may want his own man at the helm. That said, Mills has had basically zero chance to do anything with the talent — or lack thereof — he has been provided by the Astros.  One would hope that he gets a chance to stick.  If not, someone should call the Red Sox and ask them if they’d like their old bench coach back as their next manager.

  1. duvisited - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    Devastating news for the Phillies.

    • delawarephilliesfan - Nov 28, 2011 at 11:20 AM

      Ahhh, we probably got everything they had left anyway….and hey, who is to say Ed Wade is done? Just shift to a different city, and send that talent our way!

  2. drmonkeyarmy - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    The whole notion that RAJ ripped off Ed Wade is seriously overblown. I think the Astros did really well in all 3 trades with the Phillies. They would have done even better if they didn’t trade Gose for Brett Wallace.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:24 AM

      Edit: RAJ did not make the Lidge deal.

    • dan1111 - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:54 AM

      Looking back at those trades, I think you are right: they were surprisingly decent. Too bad about all the other stuff Wade did.

    • Kevin S. - Nov 28, 2011 at 1:56 PM

      The Stros’ didn’t do well in the Oswalt deal at all, but that was as much a product of them dithering away his value as it was RAJ ripping them off. Wade certainly did better in the Pence trade than he did with Bourn.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 28, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        I think the Phillies got the better of the Oswalt deal primarily because Wade kicked in half of Oswalt’s salary. Still though, had they kept Gose it would have been a pretty sweet deal for them. I still think Happ will come good for them.

  3. stex52 - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    I hate to rejoice in anyone’s misfortune, but this is awfully good news for Astros fans. The major league team has been in a death spiral for the last four years. Some of that was undoubtedly due to Wade trying to follow McClane’s orders that the major league squad would remain competitive while the minor leagues were rebuilt. But relatively few of Wades moves have worked out.

    Four drafts in, the Astros only have two of the top 100 prospects in baseball. And both of those were obtained in the trade for Pence. Where is the rebuild of the farm system?

    I also agree that the Astros did okay in their trades with the Phillies (for what they were trying to do), but they did pretty badly everywhere else. They were talking about three years to rebuild when he took over. We are still talking three more years.

    Friedman or Hunsicker is a dream scenario, but I suppose we might as well dream big.

    I also agree that Mills needs a chance with a decent team. If his skills with young players are sound, he should stay.

    Crane has a big hill to climb with this change to the AL. It is tremendously unpopular in Houston (and with me). But he just made an essential first step.

    • unclemosesgreen - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:10 AM

      They also graduated Jason Castro and Jordan Lyles to the majors, both top prospects, both drafted by Wade. The Pence trade – engineered by Wade, getting two top prospects for him with no leverage was a coup.

      George Springer is thought of quite highly by most scouts, he should be up there with Cosart and Singleton when the prospect rankings come out.

      • stex52 - Nov 28, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        I will partially concede your point on Castro and Lyles. But so far they are just high hopes for us. Neither is proven at the major league level. And that still feels like a thin haul for four years. And it’s not like they didn’t give up a very solid starter in Pence.

        As to Springer, he was regarded as a high potential, but higher risk because his swing needs developing. If we hit the jackpot with all three, I would feel a lot better. But that may be expecting a lot.

  4. unclemosesgreen - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    It is remarkable that so much negativity is focused on Ed Wade. I think he’s done a reasonably good job starting the rebuilding process on a team that Drayton McClane personally flushed down the toilet. The last draft in 2007 before Wade came in, the Astros’ highest signed draft pick was a 5th Rd player. And they already had the worst farm system in baseball.

    It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of the mess that Ed Wade inherited in Houston and hopefully he will be able to do his next job without both hands cuffed behind him.

    • dan1111 - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:47 AM

      Wade did make some really horrible moves:

      -The trade for Miguel Tejada looked terrible at the time and made no sense for a team that was rebuilding. And that was before Tejada was revealed to be a steroid user and two years older than previously thought.

      -Trading for Randy Wolf as a half-season rental mid-2008. At the time, the Astros were 12 games back and tied for last place in the division.

      Looking back, I think you’re right that Wade wasn’t as uniformly bad as some of the criticism suggests. Some of his trades have worked out well. However, a few really bad decisions create an impression of ineptitude that is hard to shake. In addition, it is hard to see his tenure as successful rebuilding. Their farm system has improved somewhat, but it is still not very good. The major league team is far worse than it was when he took over. And he has had a lot of money to work with–their payroll has been much higher than most rebuilding teams.

      • unclemosesgreen - Nov 28, 2011 at 10:05 AM

        Every GM makes bad deals. Goes with the territory. The money that he had to work with was reserved, by the owner, for veteran free agents, and young players were looked upon as an inexpensive way to acquire older players. Having a high major league budget is all fine and dandy, but the Astros had no real organizational mandate to rebuild a totally empty farm system. Not a single signing over slot. That’s a tough way to go.

        The Tejada trade wasn’t really that bad, only Luke Scott has turned out to have any value at all. When you trade away five players for one, you had better be sure about the value of your own guys, and evidently Wade was correct about them.

  5. kiwicricket - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Hang on a second…..Why am I not being irritated reading the comments section lately?
    My passionate love affair with HBT has regressed to just occasional mingling due to work, but I swear something is missing from here.

    Cept’s is gone for good??

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:06 AM

      Yup. He sort of committed commenter suicide. I was close to banning him again because of some stuff in a D.R. thread, but before I could, he asked to be banned because he was tired of the aggravation and, I assume, didn’t want the temptation of coming back. I obliged him. It’s permanent this time.

      • stex52 - Nov 28, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        I’m sorry to see that. I enjoyed a lot of what he had to say. Must be a lot better for his blood pressure, though.

        New to commenting, Craig, but I have been reading it for a while.

  6. umrguy42 - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    The winter meetings look to have more in the way of orientations and introductions than it will have trades and stuff.

    Now I’m picturing all the GMs having a set of those icebreaker games like we used to do on retreats and at conferences in college :p

    • jwbiii - Nov 28, 2011 at 2:41 PM

      “Mr. Cherington, If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Nov 28, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    On the one hand, I have nothing but a distaste in my mouth for Ed Wade for the way he handled the Phillies…getting nothing for Curt Schilling was about as bad as it got. He was with the team from 1989 until 2005, which was one of the worst stretches of play in the team’s history(with the exception of 1993)

    However, he was also the guy who was GM when they drafted Hamels, Utley, Rollins, Howard, Burrell, Myers, and he was actually the GM who hired Charlie Manuel. Most of the core of the 2008 Phillies were Ed Wade’s players. The guy who had the LEAST to do with the 2008 Championship was RAJ. That’s just a fact. That title was 100% Wade’s and Gillick’s.

    All of that being said, I would be SHOCKED if Ed Wade is ever handed the keys to another team again.

  8. cleanslaton - Nov 28, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Finally, time for optimism as an Astros fan.

    In Jim Crane’s short time as owner, the Astros have moved to a league whose rules allow the potential to score more runs, and thus–be more competitive.

    He has also FIRED the pawns that Drayton McLane had in place–that conspired to rid the team of any contracts that might decrease his profit margin prior to his fire-sale of the team. McLane/Wade’s moves also bankrupted the team of ‘fan favorites.’

    I appreciate anything that Mr. Crane does to distance the organization from the dumpster fire that was the Astros last 5 years. Keep that axe sharp, Mr. Crane. Go ‘Stros!

    • Reflex - Nov 28, 2011 at 3:43 PM

      Um, since presumably all teams in the NL play by the same rules, how does having a DH when moving to the AL make the team potentially more competitive? All teams in the AL have a DH, just as all teams in the NL do not have a DH. So its a level playing field no matter where the Astros play. If they do better in the AL it’ll be due to more competent leadership, not the addition of the DH.

      • Reflex - Nov 28, 2011 at 3:45 PM

        Hell, if anything for the Astros it makes the team less competitive, they now have the same budget they always had, but have to pay for an additional big bopper. Granted they could increase thier income via various business moves, but they could do that just as easily as a NL team.

        More or less, if they couldn’t compete in the NL, then moving to the AL won’t help that, and may in fact be detrimental. Especially given the size of the markets in their new division vs the markets in their old division. Not a single AL West opponent is in the bottom half of the AL revenue and market size wise. Same can’t be said for the NL Central.

      • stex52 - Nov 28, 2011 at 3:59 PM

        The Astros can spend a lot more money than they are presently rumored to budget. They have been as high as the 110 MM$ range in the past. They just haven’t spent in efficiently lately. The question is really more one of building a strong farm organization and convincing the fans you have the smarts to compete. The last two GM’s haven’t helped that.

        But they can spend with the others (except maybe LAA) in the AL West, if they can also convince the fans (me included) that DH-ball is almost as good as baseball.

      • Reflex - Nov 28, 2011 at 5:12 PM

        No doubt they could spend a lot more money than they have. But the point I’m making is that without a DH, thats one less big contract they need, which permits them to upgrade the team elsewhere, either in a better rotation, higher caliber hitters for the other 8 slots, or in scouting and draft signings. Running a club is more expensive in the AL, inherently, due to the DH, and their competition is all pretty strong in terms of financial resources(but not always management, as the Angels and Mariners have proven in the past decade).

  9. mojosmagic - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    I guess Rueben Amaro will have to take him off speed dial. 1-800-sucker.

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