Ed Wade was never the most popular guy in Philadelphia and he still isn't. In his current job as the GM of the Houston Astros, he's charged with rebuilding a franchise that has struggled in recent years, even though they're in a relatively winnable division. This winter though, Wade and the Astros appear to be making a move at respectability and they're doing it somewhat at the expense of the Phillies.
On Thursday, Wade made two Phillies-like moves. First, he signed third baseman Pedro Feliz to a one-year, $4.5 million deal, just about a million under what the Phillies would have paid Feliz in 2010. Then, came the real shot fired in the way of Philadelphia. While the Phillies were negotiating with reliever Brandon Lyon and figuring out a way to fit his salary onto their payroll, Ed Wade made his move. Surprising a lot of people around baseball, Wade went to three years on a deal with Lyon, beating the two-year deal that the Phillies were offering. And, just to be sure they got the deal done, Wade pushed his offer up to $15 million, again beating what the Phillies were offering Lyon.
The Phillies are spending time considering how to remake their bullpen and Houston came into the off-season with the same priority. While the Phillies have basically gone back-and-forth with their own free agents - Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre - and have talked with agents for Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin in an attempt to avoid arbitration with them, Wade has made a couple of significant moves to pump up the Astros pen. Besides signing Lyon, Wade traded for Marlins former closer Matt Lindstrom.
In moves much more like the Ed Wade that Phillies fans are used to, Wade also signed former Phillies minor leaguers Chris Shelton and Gary Majewski. Majewski spent last season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, posting numbers that some thought would get him a September call-up. Instead, Majewski was never added to the 40 man roster and became a minor league free agent. The signing of Shelton and Majewski recalls many of Wade's moves as GM of the Phillies when he signed many unknown or past their prime players, hoping to fit them into the big league club.
Even when he hired a new manager, Wade looked back to his Philly days when he chose Brad Mills, who was a bench coach under Terry Francona during Wade's reign as GM of the Phillies.
Of course, while the Phillies were the ones making relatively smaller moves at the Winter Meetings, remember that Wade's club is in a much more desperate situation. The Phillies have made their bigger moves over the past few seasons and used their farm system to build a winning club, Wade is in much the same situation that he was with the Phillies. When he took over the club, the Phillies farm system wasn't as effective as it is now. Of course, to help build that system, Wade had draft guru Mike Arbuckle to help him. Wade also didn't have a front office that was always willing to let him go the extra mile to sign someone like Lyon. The Astros still have a long way to go to make their club into a contending team, but they've made nice strides even just over the past week.
Ironically, Wade is taking a different approach to helping the Astros get to the top. Rather than building through the draft and farm system as he did in Philly, Wade is being given the opportunity to spend some money and pursue major league free agents to address the team's needs. Phillies fans have seen former manager Terry Francona have success with the Boston Red Sox and it's possible that they'll see former GM Ed Wade have success with the Astros, too.