Changes appear to be coming soon for the Astros. When new owner Jim Crane addressed the media last week once his deal was approved by MLB, Crane said some baseball decisions could come immediately after Thanksgiving. Crane was addressing a question about structuring the baseball side of the operation.
Cutting to the chase, the fate of general manager Ed Wade as well as President of Baseball Operations Tal Smith may be decided in a matter of days. It should soon be clear if Crane and CEO George Postolos plan to retain the current management team or if the club will go in a completely new direction.
"Everybody wants to know what their role is," said Wade. "That's just human nature. But I don't dictate the pace and, frankly, we've been operating here business as usual for an extended period of time. At some point in time I'm sure there will be clarity to the circumstance."
Wade has been the general manager since 2007 when he replaced Tim Purpura. Smith has spent three separate stints with the club, the most recent tenure being the longest: from 1994 through the present.
Over the past couple of seasons it became clear that the organization's focus has turned toward rebuilding a minor league system that was decimated due to neglect over a long period of time. And Crane has been very clear that the current philosophy will continue.
"I really think that it's appropriate to let Jim make those statements (in terms of future plans)," Wade said. "Since the latter stages of 2007 we have been dedicated to the task of building the depth in our farm system. And not only depth, but quality of depth in our farm system.
"Despite the way it may be portrayed on certain fronts, I feel very strongly that we've made significant progress. I don't think you have to look much further than the composition of the club at the end of the season last year."
If the plan moving forward is to stay the course in terms of player development, Wade sounds like a man making a pitch that he's best positioned to do so.
"I certainly don't think we're starting from ground zero in that regard," said Wade. "I think we've made significant progress to make that occur."
Building a case for Wade probably begins with the fact that the organization was void of virtually any prospects when he took over in 2007. Beyond Hunter Pence, who made his debut in 2007, the club had nowhere to turn to promote talent after years of signing premier free agents in an attempt to contend each season. The project Wade undertook was massive: To somehow resurrect what many considered the worst minor league system in the sport.
What remains unclear is exactly how well Wade has done the job. While he acquired talent in exchange for veterans like Lance Berkman, Michael Bourn and Pence, the quality and the upside of that young talent remains to be seen. One trade which currently appears suspect is the Roy Oswalt deal which netted Brett Wallace, primarily. While Wade and others in baseball considered Wallace a "hitting machine," Wallace has just seven home runs and 42 RBI in 537 plate appearances as an Astro. Wallace did manage 22 doubles last season.
But it was also under Wade's watch that the Astros acquired names like pitchers Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Paul Clemens, first baseman Jonathan Singleton and current third baseman Jimmy Paredes. Scouts generally consider all of the aforementioned names as legitimate Major League prospects. But in what time frame? Ed Wade hopes to be the general manager when the time comes.