Wade played no favorites in dealing Pence

Hunter Pence had several teams pursuing him, but the Phils' package proved the best fit.
Hunter Pence had several teams pursuing him, but the Phils' package proved the best fit. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 01, 2011

It started with a memorandum to all contending teams from Houston general manager Ed Wade.

In essence, Wade told his fellow general managers the same thing he told the media: All Astros players were available for the right price, and he reserved the right to say no.

"I sent that out a little before the all-star break," Wade said.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was one of the first to respond, expressing his interest in Astros rightfielder Hunter Pence. By no means was Amaro the only GM interested in Pence, a 28-year-old, two-time all-star who cannot be a free agent until after the 2013 season.

"Eight clubs were interested within 24 hours," Wade said. "There weren't fits every place, and when we boiled it down and weighed the pot, there were three deals that made sense. At the end, the deal that fit best with the prospects we were looking for was Philadelphia."

Amaro did not think that was going to be the case the day before. He feared things were falling apart but said, "I always try to stay cautiously optimistic."

It helped that he was dealing with Wade, but not because Amaro feels as though he can pull one over on his former boss.

"Obviously I have a familiarity with Ed and I view him as a good friend," Amaro said. "The one thing you can get from some particular GMs is that you can get a deal done. Some relationships that you have with certain GMs, you don't feel that way. But Ed and I had always been able to do things in the past, so when you grease the skids, you know at the end of the day you can do something."

After nearly three weeks of talks, the deal finally got done Friday night during the game against Pittsburgh. The Phillies got Pence, the righthanded bat that manager Charlie Manuel wanted so badly in the middle of his lineup.

In return, the Astros received the Phillies' two best minor-league prospects (pitcher Jarred Cosart and first baseman Jonathan Singleton), plus Reading's Josh Zeid, hard-throwing double-A pitcher who likely has a big-league future as a reliever, and a minor-league player to be named.

Time will tell who wins this trade.

The immediate stakes are higher for the Phillies because they saw Pence as a player who can help them win the World Series now.

"Those were our top two prospects," Amaro said. "We gave them a hell of a lot of talent. That's how it has to work. That's what trades are about."

Jokes about Wade, the oft-maligned former Phillies general manager, started as soon as the news of the Pence trade spread.

Since Wade has become Houston's general manager, he has dealt Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt and now Pence to the Phillies. Each time, however, circumstances dictated the deals.

"When I took the job in September of 2007, maybe the third thing I heard was a marching order to move Lidge," Wade said. "A lot of people thought our ballpark had gotten into his head. With Oswalt, it was clearly a player who indicated he did not want to be here anymore and we wanted to get the best prospect package we could with him while also working with a no-trade provision."

The circumstances with Pence were much different. A Texas native, he was immensely popular in Houston and he cannot become a free agent until after the 2013 season. But times are bad in Houston. The Astros have the worst record in baseball and owner Drayton McLane is in the process of selling the team to Houston businessman Jim Crane.

A baseball source indicated that the Astros' annually shrinking payroll will continue to plummet even after Crane officially takes control of the team.

In that scenario, Wade was forced to make deals with an eye to the future, even though his future as Houston's general manager is in jeopardy. He didn't care if he was dealing with the Phillies or the Atlanta Braves, as he proved Sunday when he dealt centerfielder Michael Bourn to the Phillies' closest division rival in the standings.

"My future has no bearing whatsoever," Wade said. "I think I have always exhibited the idea that the team comes first. I'm always going to try to make the right decision on behalf of the organization. When I was in Philadelphia, I had a chance to make some moves that would have been a short-term fix that I didn't make. A lot of those guys are the core of that team now."

Wade's desire to stock the Houston farm system while dumping salary made it possible for the Phillies to get another Astros player who possibly can help the team to another World Series title.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover

at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

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