It's a well-known fact that Ed Wade is among the worst general managers in baseball. But the ship was sinking even before he poked all those holes in it.
Former general manager Tim Purpura, in his infinite wisdom, felt that Jason Jennings and Woody Williams would sufficiently fill the void left by Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. Result?
Jennings posted a 6.45 ERA, "highlighted" by a spectacular top-of-the-first meltdown in which he gave up 11 runs to the anemic San Diego Padres, and Williams retired after putting up a 5.27 ERA. Thanks for coming out, guys.
Purpura also shamelessly threw $100 million at an aging, overweight Carlos Lee in an attempt to upgrade the Astros' left field situation. From 2007 to 2010, Lee earned $62 million and produced 2.1 WAR. To say this investment has not paid off would not even be scratching the surface.
The team was definitely left in a sorry state, thanks in large part to the above transactions, but the deals that this club has been involved in since Wade's arrival are just unforgivable.
Wade will forever be burned in effigy in Houston for putting together an extremely lopsided deal with his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Roy Oswalt, the Astros' staff ace and co-face of the franchise along with Lance Berkman, was the subject of heavy trade rumors in 2010. And, sure enough, as the trade deadline approached, Oswalt was sent to the Phillies. Oswalt, as always, was having a solid season: 3.42 ERA, 2.3 WAR, same peripherals as always, no indication of a decline.
So obviously the Astros were selling high and were going to get some value, right?
Oops. Wade managed to get J.A. Happ, who has been so awful that he was sent down to the minors by a team that was 37-76 at the time, and a pair of low-ceiling minor-leaguers. Advantage: Phillies.
Wade was also responsible for buying high on Brandon Lyon after a luck-fueled 2009 campaign. Lyon's 2.86 ERA was a not-so-clever disguise that hid his freakishly low .226 BABIP and freakishly high 80.8% strand rate. Other red flags surrounded Lyon in abundance as well. He had never produced an xFIP below 4.04.
In fact, his 2009 campaign only clocked in at 4.19. His walk rate had nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009, and he was never a strikeout pitcher to begin with. None of these things bothered Wade, who promptly signed Lyon to a 3-year, $15 million deal.
Lyon responded by producing 2 wins in 2010, although a razor-thin (and extremely lucky) 2.1% HR/FB rate played a huge role in that. Lyon's 2011 regression has been painful to watch, as injuries and bad luck have caused him to make only 15 appearances and rack up -1.7 WAR. But really, Ed, what did you expect?
More recently, Wade traded Jeff Keppinger to the San Francisco Giants for a pair of minor-league pitchers, one of whom is 26 years old and has no business pitching above Double-A.
I realize Keppinger didn't have a ton of value to begin with due to his age, lack of pop and average defense, but the Astros got fleeced in this deal. Wade also traded Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves at the deadline. Bourn had tremendous value to a club like Atlanta, yet Wade was unable to get them to give up anything significant and the Astros just received a random assortment of players from their surplus grab bag.
This is to say nothing of the contract that Wandy Rodriguez signed prior to the 2011 season. Three years and $34 million is fine for a pitcher of Rodriguez's caliber, but it goes deeper than that. There's a $13 million club option for 2014, and it becomes a player option if Rodriguez happens to be traded.
Rodriguez will be 35 years old in 2014, and no team is going to want to handcuff themselves to a 35-year-old pitcher for $13 million. This all but assures that, no matter how high his trade value gets, Rodriguez will remain an Astro. This is bad news for a team that plans to cut payroll drastically in the immediate future.
Finally, it's worth noting that Wade thought nothing of trading another prominent and beloved player, Lance Berkman, to the New York Yankees for a pair of minor-leaguers.
He also traded Hunter Pence to the Phillies, which, like many of his transactions, rubbed the fan base the wrong way as Pence was thought to be a centerpiece around which the team could rebuild. He got a decent haul of prospects out of the deal, which takes some of the sting out, but I'd just like to make a quick note: Rebuilding does not always mean having a fire sale on your best players. Trading away every single face of the franchise leaves it with no identity, and could very well hurt more than help.
I won't deny that Wade has been painted into a corner on a few occasions, but when the ball's been entirely in his court, he's set the Astros further back instead of helping them rebuild effectively.
Purpura also had a hand in this foolishness, and as a result the 2012 Astros will owe $36.5 million to three grossly underperforming players (Lee, Lyon and Brett Myers). That team could very well lose 120 games and erase the 2003 Detroit Tigers from the record books.