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12/10/08 10:13 PM EST

Wade alludes to upcoming moves

Astros GM says groundwork laid, plans to be active in Rule 5

LAS VEGAS -- For the first two days of the Winter Meetings, Astros general manager Ed Wade had very little to reveal during his end-of-the-day gatherings with reporters in the lobby area of the Bellagio hotel.

Wednesday's session uncovered a little more, although the Astros still have yet to make a deal, either to fill a roster need or to rid themselves of a high-salaried, arbitration-eligible player. However, Wade's comments hinted that the club may be close to doing something.

Whether or not he makes a deal before the Meetings conclude following the Rule 5 Draft is anyone's guess, but he did sound optimistic that the groundwork he laid this week could lead to news later.

"We've got irons in the fire," Wade said. "I don't know if anything's going to lead to anything. It's been productive from the standpoint of at least having what I would call substantive conversations. They could all crater by dinner time, but it's been an interesting day with respect to the possibility of maybe getting some things done on the trade front."

Wade said he's also had conversations with representatives of free agents, and while it's nothing of "great significance," the GM senses that market may be useful in terms of filling some needs.

"We're in a wait-and-see mode on a couple things, and we remain optimistic that we can get something done," Wade said.

However, the Astros are believed to be scouring the trade front more than the free-agent market, for financial reasons. Therefore, it's likely that the Randy Johnson rumors, indicating the Astros are one of a handful of teams interested in the 45-year-old lefty, are inaccurate.

"[Assistant GM] David [Gottfried] talked to [agent] Barry Meister a week ago about Johnson," Wade said. "A 'what are you looking for' kind of thing. [Meister] indicated some pretty significant numbers. So technically, we made an inquiry. Anything beyond us making an inquiry would be an overstatement."

The Astros were also rumored to be interested in free-agent catcher Michael Barrett, but sources close to the club downplayed the speculation.

"We've got irons in the fire. I don't know if anything's going to lead to anything. It's been productive from the standpoint of at least having what I would call substantive conversations."
-- GM Ed Wade

The Astros have also been tied to the Diamondbacks, who have been rumored to be a possible suitor for third baseman Ty Wigginton. This appears highly unlikely, however, considering Wigginton is expected to make upwards of $7 to $8 million in arbitration and the D-backs are unable to take on any extra salary.

Having actively shopped both Wigginton and Miguel Tejada, and to a lesser degree Jose Valverde, the Astros are clearly making an aggressive attempt to lower their payroll from the projected $115-120 million to $100 million. Rumor has it that club owner Drayton McLane may have even ordered the payroll lowered to $95 million since the beginning of the Winter Meetings.

So what if the Astros cannot trade any of their high-salaried players? The club may be forced to make some unpopular decisions, including non-tendering Wigginton on Friday. It should be noted that no one in the organization has ever indicated this has been discussed internally.

The last order of business at the Winter Meetings will be the Rule 5 Draft, and the Astros are primed to select at least one player. They spent three hours Wednesday poring over names and formulating their game plan, and Wade plans to be active.

"I think the leg work that our guys have done should give us the ability to make at least one selection in the Rule 5, maybe more than that," Wade said. "Depending on how fast the guys we have on our list fly off the board."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.