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02/20/10 3:03 PM EST

Astros extend Wade's contract

Veteran general manager now signed through 2012 season

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Much of what general manager Ed Wade has accomplished since he was hired by the Astros late in the 2007 season has taken place away from Minute Maid Park and in the bulldog, cutthroat world of scouting and player development.

Called upon to rebuild what was considered one of the worst farm systems in baseball, Wade restructured the scouting and player development department and could soon start to see the fruits of his labor. And on Saturday, the Astros took a step to help ensure he'll be around to see it through.

The Astros extended Wade's contract by two years, signing him through the 2012 season. Astros owner Drayton McLane made the announcement shortly after pitchers and catchers went through their first workout of Spring Training at Osceola County Stadium.

"That shows the confidence that all of us in the organization have for his leadership, his integrity and the direction he's taking the Houston Astros, particularly a big move he made this year to make the club younger and more able," McLane said. "We're very pleased and excited to offer this two-year extension."

Wade, 54, is entering his third full season as general manager of the Astros, who hired him Sept. 20, 2007. He was given a two-year extension to his original contract, which was through the 2010 season. The Astros also extended the contracts of assistant general managers Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck through 2011.

"I'm tremendously gratified that Drayton has shown this confidence in what we've been trying to do here for the last couple of years and is willing to give us an opportunity to see it to the finish line, whether it's a short-term success at the big league level or ability to sustain long-term success," Wade said. "We've been able to create a culture here that people are buying into, the fact we want to get good and stay good. It takes a commitment and for Drayton to show his faith in me is certainly appreciated."

Wade is in his 34th season in Major League Baseball, a career that began when he was an intern in the Phillies' public relations department. He served as general manager of the Phillies from 1998-2005 and then spent two seasons as a scout for the Padres before McLane hired him to replace Tim Purpura.

"We wanted to make a bold statement of our confidence of Ed," McLane said. "He's made a lot of very significant changes in our scouting. Bobby Heck and the scouting in the last two Drafts have been very good for us, and we're really excited about the draft this year with the slots that we have. We will probably have one of the best number of top slots the Astros have ever had."

Houston currently has five of the top 88 picks -- including No. 8, 19 and 33 overall -- in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Shortly after joining Houston, Wade hired Heck from the Milwaukee Brewers to help rebuild a farm system that was decimated by trades and a series of poor Drafts. Jason Castro, the club's No. 1 pick in 2008, is competing for a starting spot at catcher on this year's team, and several young pitchers taken since Wade was hired could be at Double-A Corpus Christi this year.

Meanwhile, Wade placed an added importance on international scouting by hiring Glen Barker as director of Pacific Rim scouting and Felix Francisco as director of Latin American scouting.

"Drayton and [president of baseball operations] Tal [Smith] and everybody who's involved in the interview process when I first got this job were very candid, that we needed to travel down parallel paths," Wade said. "We needed to win a championship in 2008, we wanted to win one in 2009. We haven't gotten there yet, but the parallel path is we needed to strength our farm system."

Wade made a number of high-profile trades in his first few months in Houston, acquiring Jose Valverde, Miguel Tejada and Michael Bourn in separate deals. Valverde and Tejada had two strong seasons with the Astros before leaving in free agency this winter, and Bourn was named the team's Most Valuable Player last year.

He also acquired veterans LaTroy Hawkins and Randy Wolf in deals in 2008 that proved to be beneficial. In the last few months, he signed Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon and traded for Matt Lindstrom.

For McLane, the move to extend Wade was more about stability.

"It's important to see the person that's in charge, Ed Wade, has a contract for the next three years," McLane said. "People want stability, so I think it's important for the people that report to him and when we're talking about drafting players, that the player and his family want to be with an organization that is strong and stable and has consistent management."

Wade thanked Smith for being vital in his career. In 1986, Wade worked as an associate for Tal Smith Enterprises, which has provided consulting services to 26 of the 30 Major League clubs during arbitration. The two were reunited in 2007, and they will stay together the next three years.

"Drayton didn't know me very well when I was given this opportunity," Wade said. "Obviously, I had the ability to have somebody like Tal Smith in my corner for my entire professional career, so Tal was a big proponent on my behalf. Over time, I think Drayton's come to know what I'm about and that this all about the Astros organization. I'm honored to have this opportunity and hopeful we can make the most of it."

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