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Economics hindering potential moves

Economics hindering Astros' moves

LAS VEGAS -- General manager Ed Wade had conversations with a handful of teams on Tuesday, and in exchanging anecdotes has come to the conclusion that most clubs are in the same boat as the Astros.

That is, most teams have needs and would like to add, but first, they need to shed payroll.

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This wasn't a unique revelation as the second day of the Winter Meetings wrapped up on Tuesday at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas. The Astros' needs remain the same: They want to add a utility infielder, a fifth outfielder, a backup catcher and a starting pitcher, and they also need to rid themselves of a big contract or two. Finding a team that needs some of the players on the Astros' roster isn't the tough part. Finding a trade partner that can absorb a large salary, on the other hand, is nearly impossible.

"I still think there are some fits," Wade said. "But the overall economic factor, as we've talked about ad nauseam, still exists."

The Astros are shopping Miguel Tejada, and, as reported here Monday, they are at least amenable to absorbing a portion of the shortstop's $13 million salary. Ty Wigginton, due for a hefty raise from the $4.35 million he earned in 2008, is also still on the market, while Jose Valverde isn't being as actively shopped.

But finding potential buyers is an issue, and most clubs are running into the same stumbling block.

"I talked to two clubs today, talking in just general conversation," Wade said. "It was clear that in order for them to do the things they want to do, they would have to shed payroll. There are probably a half-dozen clubs that want to do something but first may have to move salary."

Wade has engaged in casual conversations with various agents but doesn't appear to be close to filling some of the backup positions. The Astros were rumored to be interested in So Taguchi, but that has no validity.


"There are probably a half-dozen clubs that want to do something but first may have to move salary."
-- GM Ed Wade

The Astros have $60 million committed to four players in 2009, and their projected payroll could reach upwards of $120 million, taking into consideration hefty arbitration raises to Wigginton and Valverde, with more modest bumps projected for Wandy Rodriguez and Brandon Backe. The Astros have a threshold of about $100 million, so to come in at or under that, they're going to have to be active on the trade front.

It's becoming increasingly less likely the Astros will get much done before the Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday.

"We've had conversations with a handful of clubs," Wade said. "We had GM Meetings, and we touched base with a couple of teams. Nothing moving in a rapid pace at this stage. Luckily, there's no trade deadline."

The last order of business of the Winter Meetings every year is the Rule 5 Draft, and Wade, who has a good track record with picks in the past, plans to be active during the Draft on Thursday morning. Last year, the Astros plucked left-hander Wesley Wright from the Dodgers and in turn found a reliable lefty specialist.

A player not protected on a club's 40-man roster is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if he was 18 or younger when he first signed a pro contract and this is his fifth Rule 5 Draft since he signed, or if he was 19 or older when he first signed a pro contract and this is the fourth Rule 5 Draft since he signed.

A player drafted must remain on the active roster for the entire season, or the drafting club must offer him back to his original club. However, since a returned Rule 5 player must first be placed on outright waivers, a third club could claim the player off waivers. That club would then also have to keep him in the Majors all season, or offer him back to his original club.

"We have space on the roster, and there are guys we're interested in," Wade said. "I expect us to be involved."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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