HOUSTON -- Like everyone else in baseball, the Houston Astros need starting pitching. But they couldn't pass up an opportunity to grab one of the game's best hitting shortstops. The Astros acquired Miguel Tejada from the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday in a five-for-one trade that included three pitchers going to the Orioles. "Obviously, the price of the deal is high, a little painful," said Ed Wade, the Astros new general manager. "We gave up some significant pitching in this deal. If you're going to bring in a player of this caliber, you've got to pay the price for it."
Houston traded outfielder Luke Scott, third baseman Michael Costanzo, left-hander Troy Patton and right-handers Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate for Tejada. How the Astros rotation will line up behind No. 1 starter Roy Oswalt has been the major question since the season ended, and Patton and Albers were candidates to be starters. "We had a lot of internal conversations with our staff," Wade said. "Our staff felt overwhelmingly that if we had the ability to add a four-time All-Star, run-producing shortstop to our lineup, it would make us very, very potent offensively." He will be returning to Minute Maid Park, where he won the home run contest before the 2004 All-Star Game, beating out Houston's Lance Berkman in the final. "I'm just happy to hear I got traded," Tejada said on a conference call from Miami. "I have a lot of memories [from that All-Star Game]. I remember the fans cheering for Berkman. I hope they're happy when I come to Houston." Tejada, 31, who hit .311 in his four years with the Orioles after playing seven seasons for Oakland, has two years remaining on his contract. Scott, Houston's starting right fielder this past season and who hit .255 with 18 homers, became expendable when the Astros acquired center fielder Michael Bourn in the Brad Lidge trade with Philadelphia. That allowed Houston's Hunter Pence to move from center field, where he started this season, to right. Costanzo was acquired as part of the Lidge/Bourn trade. He hit .270 with 27 homers and 86 RBIs in Double-A this year. Adam Everett, Houston's starting shortstop for most of the past five years, was not included in the trade. Wade said the Astros did not plan to tender an offer to Everett by midnight Wednesday, making him an unrestricted free agent. Everett, 30, was often brilliant defensively, but his average slipped to .239 in 2006 and .232 this past season, playing in only 66 games in '07 because of a fractured right leg. He has only 35 homers in his career.
"He plays every inning of every game," Wade said. "The one exception was when he was hit by a pitch June 20th of this past season and missed, I think, 29 games. The guy who hit him was Doug Brocail (who the Astros signed as a free agent on Nov. 27). They can figure that out when they get to the clubhouse in [Spring Training]."
Wade likes Tejada's numbers, including 1,152 consecutive games played before being hurt this year, 252 career home runs, and a 2006 average of .303 with runners in scoring position and a .382 average with runners in scoring position and two outs.
"There's no doubt this individual brings a huge offensive element to our club," Wade said. "We still believe we've got pitching that can go out there and win."
The deal didn't happen all of sudden for Houston.
"We've talked to Baltimore off and on for two years about Tejada," Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith said. "Certainly in 2006. It's sort of ongoing. Baltimore's had a change in their administration with Andy MacPhail, and I think Baltimore has wanted to change the composition of their club. We had a lot of conversations [before]. I don't know how you quantify close. Baltimore just elected at that time not to move him.
Tejada had heard all the trade talk.
"I'm always involved in trade rumors," he said. "I don't pay attention to that. The only thing I can do is play baseball. It was difficult in Baltimore. They told me they were going [to build around me]. We were losing every game.
"If Houston brings me over there, they want to win. When I was in Baltimore, I take everything day-to-day. Now, my mind is fresh. I can't wait to go to Spring Training and meet all my new teammates. I'm relaxed and ready to go."
The Astros understand they gave up plenty.
"To make a deal of this magnitude, you have to satisfy the other club. Baltimore is interested in young talent. We exchanged a lot of names. I think it's very important that we did not seriously disturb our nucleus for 2008 at all. There are some very fine young players that went [to Baltimore] -- prospects. We all know sometimes prospects work out and exceed your expectations and sometimes the opposite happens. Our focus is on 2008."
Wade said he envisioned a batting order with Michael Bourn leading off in center field, Kaz Matsui at second base, Miguel Tejada at short, Lance Berkman at first, Carlos Lee in left field, Hunter Pence in right, Ty Wigginton at third base and J.R. Towles behind the plate.
"That's a pretty good lineup," Wade said. "We'll take our chances with that lineup."
"I think the lineup will be unbelievable," Tejada said.
Berkman and Lee are the only two players in that projected lineup who started Opening Day 2007 for the Astros.
Before Wade arrived, many expected 2008 to be a rebuilding year for the Astros. No way, said the new GM.
"This is about '08," he said. "We're putting a lot of emphasis on this coming season. We've added 14 players to our club, some of whom are going to play very significant roles for us.
"From the first interview I went through here it was never portrayed that I was inheriting a rebuilding structure. This isn't a club to me that was in position to have to rebuild. You've got a No. 1 starter [Oswalt], a middle of the lineup with Berkman and Lee, young players like Pence and Towles ...."
Wade stressed that Tejada will bring more than just his bat to the Houston lineup.
"I know there's been talk that his range has gone backward," Wade said. "I had a chance to see Miguel play in my role as a Padres scout the last two years. His range wasn't what it was four or five years ago. But he's got great hands, a good arm, turns the double play well and with he and Matsui around the bag at second base, I believe we've got a good double-play combination."
"He doesn't have Adam Everett's range," Smith said. "Nobody does. We're quite confident his offensive contributions will more than make up for any difference that may exist as far as range."
Veteran Mark Loretta started at shortstop most of the time with Everett sidelined. Loretta and Geoff Blum, signed recently as a free agent, can each play all four infield positions.
"I really like our bench," Wade said. "We've got experience, we've got versatility and we've got talent."
|"We all know sometimes prospects work out and exceed your expectations and sometimes the opposite happens. Our focus is on 2008."|
|-- Astros GM Ed Wade, on giving up young talent|
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.