Astros trade Lane to Padres
Move ends outfielder's six-year run with Houston
Ed Wade made his first move as the Astros' general manager on Monday, trading Jason Lane to the Padres in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
The trade was apparently completed in less than an hour and the pace of the negotiations was likely aided by the close relationship between San Diego GM Kevin Towers and Wade, who left his post as a Padres professional scout to join the Astros.
The Padres needed an outfielder after losing Milton Bradley and Mike Cameron to injury on Sunday, and with the prospect of both departing via free agency next year, they acquired Lane with 2008 in mind as well.
Bradley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee after being restrained by manager Bud Black following his ejection from the Padres' 7-3 loss Sunday to Colorado. The outfielder will not only miss the final seven games of the regular season but also the postseason should the Padres advance that far. Cameron's injury occurred an inning earlier, after Bradley stepped on his right thumb and index finger. He could be out up to two weeks.
The Padres entered play on Monday 2 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the National League West and a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the Wild Card standings. And now they'll have to try to advance to the playoffs without one of their top offensive players. That's where Lane enters the picture.
"Experience, he can play center field, has power," Towers said. "[Morgan] Ensberg certainly gave a good endorsement from a character standpoint and a playing standpoint. We saw him play center field in our park this year.
"With two potential free agents in Cameron and Bradley, it's nice to have him for the next six days and we control him over the winter. He's another guy to put in the mix with [Scott] Hairston and [Brian] Giles."
The trade puts an end to Lane's six-year Astros career. The 30-year-old outfielder didn't play a lot in 2007, hitting .178 with eight homers and 27 RBIs in 68 games. Over parts of six seasons, he hit .241 with 61 home runs and 189 RBIs over 494 games.
His best year was 2005, when he hit 26 homers and drove in 78 runs during the Astros' run to their first National League pennant.
Lane recently spoke with Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith, who told the outfielder he did not have a future with the club. When the Padres suddenly had a need for an outfielder, Wade saw no reason to hold onto Lane for the final week of the season. It's likely the Astros will take the cash consideration over the player to be named.
"He knew what his fate was here," Wade said. "He had a conversation with Tal. This way, he gets a fresh start. This gives him a head start to impress one other club, and with the amount of scrutiny that takes place in terms of advance scouting for the postseason, this may open somebody's eyes to give better opportunity even with another club.
"We made the deal more as a convenience, for an opportunity for Jason to play and get in a pennant race for a short period of time."
Because he was not in the Padres' organization on Aug. 31, Lane will not be eligible for the postseason. Still, he's excited about the prospects for his future.
"I'm excited and just thrilled that I get to go there and hopefully contribute and play to help a team get to the postseason," he said. "Hopefully I'll start over with a clean slate and show what I can do.
"I feel like I've had some playoff experience with this [Astros] team, which will hopefully prepare me for the next week there. It's always fun when there's something on the line."
Lane was a sixth-round Draft pick by the Astros in 1999. He was touted as the top prospect among all position players in the system, but following his career year in 2005, his production slipped, and his playing time was cut. Lane was sent to the Minor Leagues once in '06 and twice this year.
"He had a good year a couple of years ago," Black said. "This year, things haven't quite gone his way. He has tools, he can run for a big man, plays a good outfield, had right-handed power. He's not hitting for the average that I'm sure he or the Astros expect. Maybe a change of scenery and a short window might help."
Although he was unhappy with his situation in Houston, Lane expressed sadness to say goodbye to his teammates and the only organization he's known in his professional career. "That will be the hardest part," he said. "The situation I was in wasn't real fun, not getting to play, not getting a chance to get on the field. But just the relationships and true friends I have on this team, that will be the hardest part. I'm grateful to the organization that gave me a chance to play and that I went to a World Series with."
Lane will reunite with Ensberg, his former college and Astros teammate. Ensberg was traded to San Diego in late July.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com's Corey Brock contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.