Sources: Major changes coming in Houston
The Astros are expected to announce major changes Monday, including the dismissal of general manager Ed Wade, according to major league sources.
Tal Smith, the team’s president of baseball operations, also is expected to leave his current position, possibly by retiring, sources say.
New owner Jim Crane, who officially took over last Tuesday, promised quick decisions on the team’s hierarchy, saying his timetable was “right after Thanksgiving."
Crane and new team president George Postolos plan one-on-one meetings with all of the team’s top executives starting Monday, sources say.
The future of manager Brad Mills, who is under contract through 2012 with an option for ’13, also is uncertain. Mills could be part of the initial housecleaning, or his fate could be decided later by a new GM.
Wade, the team’s GM since Sept. 20, 2007, is under contract through ‘12. Smith has been with the Astros a total of 35 years, the last 17 as club president. His career in baseball spans 54 years.
The Astros, coming off the worst season in franchise history, aren’t expected to make many big-dollar moves this offseason. But Crane evidently wants his new GM and possibly his manager in place to evaluate the current players and shape of the organization moving forward. The Astros will move from the NL to the AL for the 2013 season.
Crane wants to rebuild the Astros from within, so he could seek executives who have had success with some of baseball’s best “homegrown” clubs: Andrew Friedman or Gerry Hunsicker with the Rays; Thad Levine or A.J. Preller with the Rangers; or Dan Jennings with the Marlins. (Jennings, who has a contract through 2015 in Miami, was denied permission to interview for the Orioles’ GM vacancy by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.)
Hunsicker, currently the Rays’ senior vice president of baseball operations, was the Houston GM from 1996 through 2004. The club reached the postseason in five of his nine seasons, and sources say he would embrace a return to Houston. Friedman’s enthusiasm for the Astros’ job is less certain.
If the Astros fire Mills, he will join his close friend Terry Francona among the ranks of managerial free agents. Mills was Francona’s trusted bench coach with the Red Sox from 2004 through 2009, a period that included two world titles for Boston. If Francona and Mills are out of work at the same time, they will loom as a popular tandem to be brought in the next time a major league managerial spot opens.