This just in from the news everybody saw coming months ago department, new Astros owner Jim Crane, having finally approved to take ownership of the club has fired team president Tal Smith and general manager Ed Wade.
Those are the only two firings as of right now, but if I were a coach or front office employee in Houston right now, I’d start updating my resume. Actually, that’s not totally true, my resume would already have been updated since this front office purge has been in the works for months. As a general rule, when a team has its worst season ever and is getting a brand new owner, not a whole lot of people get to keep their jobs. The only reason these firings didn’t happen earlier is because it took so darn long for MLB to strong arm Jim Crane into moving the Astros to the American League review and approve Crane’s ownership credentials.
But now Crane is in full control and free to exercise his will as he sees fit, and really few people can blame him for letting Wade and Smith go. The question now is what will Crane do to replace them? The off-season is already well under way and the uber-important Winter Meetings are just a week away and the Astros are only just beginning their search for a new general manager. While they aren’t expected to be players for the likes of Albert Pujols or anyone even close to his caliber in free agency, not having anyone calling the shots at a time when most of the big deals are getting done certainly isn’t going to help Houston get their substantial rebuilding project back on track.
That is, of course, unless Crane already has an idea of who he wants to hire. There has been speculation for months that Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman would consider returning to his native Houston to take over the Astros. Considering the scale of the rebuild necessary in Houston, even the allure of his hometown and a bigger payroll may not be enough to lure Friedman away from the Rays, though if his flirtation with the LA Angels earlier this off-season are any indicator, he is at least open to the idea of moving on to greener pastures, but that assumes that he actually views the Astros as being greener.
Whoever Crane tabs to take over has a lot of work to do and the sooner they can start the better. With Wandy Rodriguez and, arguably, Brett Myers as the only real trade assets on the roster, it is going to take years before even a GM as revered as Friedman can turn around a farm system that was considered to be one of the worst in the league entering the 2011 season. And that is before even taking into account the added degree of difficulty that comes with transforming a National League franchise into an American League club.