Astros still looking to deal
With center fielder in fold, Wade eyeing pitching possibilities
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Now that he's acquired the center fielder the Astros had been seeking with the trade for Michael Bourn, is Houston general manager Ed Wade finished dealing?
Don't bet on it.
"I'm leaving this meeting right now with a couple of clubs who came up and have expressed some interest in continuing discussions with us on some of our guys to see if we have the right fit," Wade said Thursday afternoon as he prepared to leave the General Managers Meetings at the Grand Cypress Resort. "If we do, we'll move on it sooner rather than later. I'm not one of those guys that sort of tries to play one opportunity against another, because I've seen so many of those deteriorate over time."
Wade cannot comment on players with other teams, but multiple Major League sources previously confirmed the Astros have contacted the Florida Marlins regarding left-hander Dontrelle Willis.
The Astros are considered extreme long shots to pull off a trade for Willis. And yet the acquisition of Bourn, acquired from Philadelphia late Wednesday night along with reliever Geoff Geary and third-base prospect Michael Costanzo for closer Brad Lidge and infielder Eric Bruntlett, means the Astros could perhaps be persuaded to deal one of the better prospects, center fielder Josh Anderson, as part of a package for pitching.
"I don't think Josh should look at this as anything other than the club's trying to get better, and where he is at in his development process right now he needs to continue to get better," Wade said. "[He needs to] do what he can do, let us try to make the right evaluation going forward. Knock our socks off.
"He's a good developing player and obviously did a really good job when given the opportunity last year. He's got to come into camp prepared to win a job. Luke Scott is still an element on our club that brings solid offense to our team. [Reggie] Abercrombie, whom we took on a waiver claim, has to come in and show what he's capable of doing. We may still add more outfield depth during the course of the offseason."
Lidge's departure also means the Astros will need a closer, and Wade confirmed during the week the Astros have made contact with Francisco Cordero's agent, as well as the representatives for relievers Scott Linebrink and Jeremy Affeldt and starting pitchers Tom Glavine and Jon Lieber.
The Astros are also pondering potential second-base options and have contacted the agents for Luis Castillo and Kaz Matsui.
The closer is not necessarily next on Wade's winter shopping list.
"It's obviously something we'd like to try to address if we could. I'm not at a point of sort of prioritizing a checklist," Wade said. "We have things we want to get done and at least explore, and that would be on that list. If it works out that we don't get something done, then obviously we're going to have to count on Chad [Qualls] to pick up the back end and fill in around him."
Bourn's arrival dropped the Astros out of the running for free agent center fielders Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, and in moving Lidge and Bruntlett the Astros are suddenly not on the hook for two arbitration-eligible players.
"We've created more flexibility in the deal where whatever Brad's arbitration number would have been comes off and the only arbitration-eligible player we acquired in that deal was Geoff Geary, [and] relatively speaking the numbers aren't even close," Wade said. "At the same time, our feeling was payroll flexibility wasn't, and still isn't, an issue for us."
Cordero, whose 44 saves were the third most in the Major Leagues behind Arizona's Jose Valverde (47) and Cleveland's Joe Borowski (45), will become one of the most sought-after free agents on the market if Milwaukee doesn't re-sign the right-hander before Nov. 13.
Wade, however, won't speculate as to which avenue (free agent, trade or in-house) the Astros are most likely to take in pursuit of a closer.
"At this stage, I think it's all open avenues," he said. "Whichever way, there is a way. We're not the only club out there, whether it's a closer market or adding more offense or starting pitching, we're not the only club out there. There are a lot of issues beyond the superficial aspects."
In center field, the trade route made the most sense for the Astros. That may not be the case with the closer or starting pitching.
"On the free agent market, it's going to be one of those eye-of-the-beholder type of things, and realistically whether a thing makes long-term sense," Wade said. "A guy that makes absolute sense for 2008, the reality is that most of the guys who make absolute sense for 2008 are out there in the three-, four- or five-year environment, so you have to weigh that against everything else.
"That was part of the process with the center field situation. You don't walk past the possibility of having a Torii Hunter or an Aaron Rowand, but you have to balance that against what the long-term commitment is. How much money are you going to allocate to your outfield over an extended period of time? It may not have the early sort of sex appeal or whatever of a deal, but our job is to try to put the best team on the field that made the most sense, and it makes the most sense to try to go with the young guys."
Wade likes Costanzo, who hit .270 with 27 home runs and 86 RBIs in 137 games for the Double-A Reading Phillies in 2007. The 2007 Eastern League All-Star ranked second in the Eastern League in home runs and third in runs scored (92).
"While we were waiting [for the medical reports to complete the trade], I said, 'All right, if we get Costanzo, who's a better left-handed power bat in [Houston's Minor League] organization?' " Wade said. "The answer is nobody."
Wade scouted the third baseman at Double-A this year while working for the Padres.
"He's probably got average range, but he catches what he gets to [and has] a well-above average and accurate throwing arm," Wade said. "At best he's an average runner. Big strikeout numbers, he's got holes to close up, but he's got a pure power bat. You've got a guy who hit 27 home runs at Double-A, that's a bat that will play in the big leagues. There are very few of those kind of guys."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.