Towers and Astros GM Ed Wade could make good trade partners, considering they have a solid working relationship that dates back to Wade's time with the Padres as a professional scout. He was working in that capacity when he was hired by the Astros in September.
While the Astros are working on several possible deals, Wade, who does not talk about trades, said on Tuesday, "We're still in dialogue with a couple different clubs. I still think we have a chance to do some things before we leave here. Realistically, today may shape up to be quiet as far as bringing anything to closure."
Wade is glad the Astros have been proactive throughout the offseason. Otherwise, several deals that fell through for them this week would have been doubly as disappointing.
"[If] you had some of the stuff that's happened to us in the last 30 hours or so happen, it would drive you nuts to go through that," Wade said with a slight chuckle. "It's nice to have some things done."
Wade and his staff worked late into the night Monday and all day Tuesday as they continued talks with several clubs on various fronts. As always, pitching is the priority but not the only focus. Wade confirmed that often "we thought were really close, that we thought were a phone call away from getting some things done," only to discover those propositions "got parked in neutral and some of them went south on us."
The White Sox and Rockies are believed to have interest in second baseman Chris Burke, who lost his job when the club signed Kaz Matsui. A source from the White Sox downplayed the club's interest, however, advising to "not look too much into it."
Although the Astros and Orioles discussed Miguel Tejada in the last week, as of Tuesday, nothing is brewing. The probability of the teams reaching an agreement were downgraded from a two on a scale of one to 10 to "zero" by a Major League source on Tuesday.
Wade hopes to make a deal before he and his staff depart Nashville on Thursday, but he's not counting on anything.
"If we don't make a trade and we don't sign a free agent and we don't get anybody in the Rule 5 Draft, we'll be disappointed," he said. "But it won't be the end of the world. We've done some things and we'll continue to do some things after."
Other news and notes from Astros camp:
Mark Loretta's agent, Bob Garber, contacted Wade on Tuesday to gauge the club's interest in retaining Loretta for 2008. The Astros offered Loretta arbitration and the utility infielder has until Friday to accept or reject the offer.
Should Loretta accept, he would be considered a signed player with a salary to be determined. However, he would be committing to a team that has no starting position for him, and Loretta's playing time could be limited considering the Astros recently signed Geoff Blum, a left-handed-hitting utility man who can play all infield positions. Burke is also still with the club, although he's likely to be traded, and the Astros recently signed infielder Tomas Perez to a Minor League contract. Wade expects Perez, who is currently playing for Al Pedrique in the Venezuelan Winter League, to compete for a roster spot next spring.
That said, Wade still has great interest in retaining Loretta, one of the most productive offensive Houston players in 2007.
"His versatility is very appealing," Wade said. "When you start talking about carrying 12 pitchers, as most clubs are apt to do these days, you really have to have versatility, play different positions, do different things. That's why Mark has appeal. Let him fight for a job, beat somebody out. He's a veteran guy and he's been in this position before and has figured out a way to get a lot of playing time. We'll have to see if his familiarity with the organization is enticing to him or not."
The Astros and Craig Biggio's agent, Barry Axelrod, were tentatively scheduled to meet on Tuesday regarding a personal services contract for the retired second baseman. That meeting did not take place due to time restraints, but it is likely the two sides will gather at some point before the Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday.
Brad James, an up-and-coming right-hander who could factor into the Astros' future, will undergo surgery to insert a screw in his fractured right foot.
The surgery will be performed in the coming days at The Methodist Hospital by Dr. Nathan Varner. James will be in a boot for approximately six weeks, and he will begin throwing following removal of the boot. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training next February.
James, 23, was selected by the Astros in the 29th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander was 9-2 with a league-best 1.98 ERA over 16 starts for Class A Salem in 2007, and following a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi, he was 1-5 with a 5.17 ERA over nine starts. James was recently added to the club's 40-man roster.