Foundation set for future dealings
Astros make no moves at Meetings, but Wade sees potential
LAS VEGAS -- The Astros were expected to be relatively quiet during the Winter Meetings, and considering they left the Bellagio Resort on Thursday afternoon having completed no transactions -- no trades, no free-agent signings -- it's safe to say they lived up to those expectations.
That doesn't mean they're standing pat for good, however. General manager Ed Wade was active this week, having engaged in multiple conversations with a myriad of clubs. Even as the Rule 5 Draft ended around 12 p.m. CT on Thursday, Wade was heading to a meeting with one team while waiting to hear back from another.
So even if the Astros didn't make any announcements this week, expect a few to arrive, perhaps sooner than later. The Astros need a backup infielder, a fifth outfielder and they still need to shave some money off the payroll, perhaps by trading Ty Wigginton or Miguel Tejada, or, in a less likely scenario, Jose Valverde.
"I think we tried to exhaust every possibility while we were here," Wade said. "There's still some balls in the air. There's no trade deadline anymore at the Winter Meetings, so life goes on, and if something we've worked on here materializes down the road, that's great. We're prepared to move forward on it."
Wade and his staff are consistently tight-lipped about their internal conversations, so very few rumors leaked out about the Astros this week. In an attempt to separate fact from fiction, it's safe to say that Wigginton is drawing the most interest on the trade front, that the Astros may be willing to absorb some of Tejada's remaining $13 million on his contract if they can find a willing trade partner, that Randy Johnson hasn't generated much buzz in Astros camp and that nearly every team is in the same boat as the Astros -- they want to add, but first, they have to subtract salary.
Wade has his eye on the non-tender market, which will establish itself once the 11 p.m. CT deadline passes Friday night. Financial issues may force teams to non-tender players they never would have in past years, so this year's class may be a bit more prestigious.
"There's always the potential for other things to develop, as the free-agent market continues to clarify itself, as the non-tender market [is established] ... whatever develops out of that group, that's going to increase dialogue among clubs," Wade said. "It's going to have more players in the pool for us to have discussions with. By the time we get to Spring Training, I think we're going to be in pretty good shape."
Even the deals that Wade did not complete but could in the future leave him optimistic.
"On a number of fronts, some of the things we talked about, some of the things we didn't get done, actually make me feel pretty good right now," he said. "I like the way our club looks today. It will look somewhat different [when the season starts], but I'm comfortable and confident we'll go to camp with the lion's share of the guys that meant so much to our team last year."
Rule 5 activity: The Astros selected left-handed reliever Gilbert De La Vara, adding a third southpaw to the bullpen mix, joining Tim Byrdak and Wesley Wright. They also traded for catcher Lou Palmisano after the Orioles selected him as the fifth overall pick in the Major League phase. Palmisano will compete for a starting job with Humberto Quintero and, on a lesser scale, J.R. Towles.
Goals accomplished: The Astros laid the groundwork, which could lead to future transactions. The picture will become clearer once the non-tender deadline passes on Friday.
Unfinished business: The Astros still need a backup shortstop and a fifth outfielder. They could use another starting pitcher to add to the mix, but it's unclear if they'll be able to afford anyone who has a legitimate chance to be a difference-maker in the middle of the rotation.
GM's bottom line: "There's a lot of fluidity in our situation on a couple of fronts, developments over the last 24 hours or so. I feel somewhat more energized or invigorated to where we stand right now. I think we're OK."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.