Jim Crane may be one of the most important – and least understood – figures associated with baseball’s July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Earlier this year, Crane agreed to purchase the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane for $680 million. But the transaction hasn’t been approved by Major League Baseball. Final approval isn’t expected until the next owners’ meetings on Aug. 17-18 – at the earliest. Thus, Crane has refrained from making detailed public comments about the team.
However, one source with knowledge of his thinking said Wednesday that Crane hasn’t instructed the current Astros general manager Ed Wade to keep any particular player – such as All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence.
While Wade is technically reporting to McLane, he has kept Crane informed of his trade conversations – including the talks that led to Jeff Keppinger being dealt to San Francisco earlier this week. And if Wade reaches agreement on a deal involving Pence that makes good baseball sense, the source said that Crane would likely permit it.
Crane hasn’t said publicly whether Wade will remain in the job once the sale is complete. But a similar state of uncertainty didn’t prevent Diamondbacks interim general manager Jerry Dipoto from trading several players – including starters Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson – last July.
Some in the industry expect the Astros’ payroll will decline sharply next season. By trading Pence – along with fellow veterans Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez – the Astros can save money, replenish their barren farm system and evaluate their remaining talent against major-league competition.
-- Jon Paul Morosi