- Signing Kaz Matsui to a 3-year, $16.5 million deal. Matsui has been worth a cumulative +2.5 WAR through the first two years of his contract. 117 players, including 18 second basemen, were at least that valuable last season, according to Fangraphs.
- Extended Brian Moehler to a 2009 contract worth $2.3 million. Moehler was not even worth +1 WAR last season. Given the market value of a win in 2010 (~$3.5 million) this signing -- an undeniable waste of limited resources -- could have been worse I suppose. Why bother paying for less than a single additional win when you're a sub-.500 team? It's not like Moehler's +1.2 WAR 2008 lit the world of expectations on fire...
- Signing Pudge to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal. Despite Pudge's sub-1 WAR 2009 season, I actually like this deal. The Astros got a good defensive catcher on the cheap. Pudge only played 2/3 of a season and Fangraph's WAR system does not take in to account Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAR) due to the difficulty in calculating it, but CHONE pegs Pudge as a +3 run defender next season. I see Pudge more as 1.5 WAR catcher full time and you really good do worse considering the scarcity of talent at the position (see Mets, New York).
- Trading Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett to his former team, the Phillies, for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo. Michael Bourn alone made this deal a win. Despite a poor showing in 2008, Bourn was worth +4.2 WAR in center last season, thanks to an above average balance in fielding and hitting ability. Lidge on the other hand, despite the no-blown-saves bounce back season in 2008, was only worth +2.2 WAR in 2008 and a below replacement level -0.7 WAR last season. Geary is awful (+0.1 WAR since 2008) and Costanzo is a non-factor who was traded to the Orioles in the Tejada deal. Bruntlett is also pretty bad, for what it's worth (-1.1 WAR since being traded).
- Traded Juan Gutierrez, Chad Qualls and Chris Burke to the Dbacks for Jose Valverde. It is important to note that RPs are traditionally overvalued. They get a very limited innings load, limiting their value, and its hard to judge their true talent level. No reliever was worth +3 WAR last season and only ten were worth even +2 WAR. Qualls has been worth +3.3 WAR since the trade, has a year left under team control, and has been paid less than $4 million over the past two seasons (he will make ~$4.2 million in 2010). Gutierrez made his team debut last season and was worth +1.5 WAR. He's is not arbitration eligible until 2011. No one cares about Chris Burke. On the other hand, Valverde was not worth even +1 WAR in either 2008 or 2009. He was cumulatively worth +1.5 WAR for the Astros, or what Juan Gutierrez did last season. On the other hand, whereas Juan Gutierrez was paid something in the ballpark of $400,000 in 2009, Jose Valverde was paid $12.7 million during his stay in Houston.
- Traded Chad Reineke for Randy Wolf. 2008 was not a good year for the Padres selling low on players (see Edmonds, Jim). Wolf posted +1.1 WAR part-season in a meager 70 innings for the Astros. On the other hand, not even Oakland or San Diego can house the flyballs Chad Reineke serves up.
- Traded Luis Bryan, Robert Bono and Jorge Jimenez for Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom is an average RP talent who has posted +1.4, +0.8 and +0.0 WAR seasons in the past three seasons. He is getting paid ~$1.6 million in 2010 and who knows how much money through his next two years of arbitration -- probably more than the $3.5 million market value per win. Fangraphs doesn't think too highly of any of the three prospects (especially Bryan, who drew 0 walks in 111 minor league PA's) Houston traded away -- largely because the Houston farm system doesn't have any prospects to trade away -- but I disagree with the conclusion that "at such a low cost, this move makes a lot of sense for Houston." Lindstrom is turning 30 with decreasing control and largely succeed in 2007 and 2008 with sub-3% HR/FB rates. That's abnormally low, even for a relief pitcher. The average relief pitcher's HR/FB rate last season was 8.7%.
- Traded Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Mike Costanzo (see #4), Dennis Sarfate and Troy Patton for Miguel Tejada. Tejada was worth a quality +5.7 WAR during his stay upon the Astros. He was also handsomely rewarded, getting paid $26 million in the process. Turns out Tejada, like many other Dominican players, lied about his age -- not that that was the Astros fault. What Ed Wade got was a player at "market value" at best. Eleven other SS were worth at least +5.7 over the past two seasons, but none of them were acquirable through free agency. Luke Scott has hit 48 HR since moving to Baltimore (cumulative +3.7 WAR in just over 1,000 PA) to Tejada's 27 and has cost Baltimore less than $3 million in salary (and he will make just over $4 million in 2010, while remaining under team control for 2011). Albers has provided the O's with +1.0 WAR of value over the last two seasons and the rest of the players have not (nor will they do) jack for Baltimore. It seems like Houston took on a lot of salary for just +1 WAR of value, while the O's saved a ton and filled that 1 WAR gap by signing Cesar Izturis (+1.2 WAR last season for 2-years, $5 million. In terms of absolute value, the Astros managed a fine trade, but from the economic perspective -- that of the marginal valued added in respect to the cost -- the Astros get screwed. Between Albers (who was just as valuable as Moehler was for $2 million less) and Scott -- collectively worth +4.7 WAR over the past two seasons -- the Astros added +1 WAR in Miguel Tejada at the cost of $22 million of payroll.
Regardless, what stands is the following. Ed Wade has not been very good for the Astros. He's made his fair share of bad trades and free agency signings (such as this offseason's signing of Brandon Lyon to a 3-year, $15 million deal, despite having only once in his career -- 2007 -- been worth even a win above average). Despite some signs-of-hope draft picking, Wade's tenure in Houston has been at an optimistic best, a wash. The Astros are a .500 team (166-166) since Wade took over. They've finished 3rd and 5th in the division each of the past two seasons. CHONE projects them to finish dead last in the NL Central this year. Wade has made the team less white in the past two seasons, but with an average age of 28.1, the Astros are still the fifth oldest team in baseball. Even the Yankees are younger.
Can't imagine any Astros fans being too excited over this move.