In the week forever linked to the Angels 10-year $250m deal that secured the services of Albert Pujols, the Houston Astros picked off another ex-Cardinal in Jeff Luhnow, formerly VP of Scouting and Player Development. The Astros cast their net widely, interviewed a couple of decent up and coming executives, and tried unsuccessfully to land the big fish in Andrew Friedman.
Almost the exact opposite of what Drayton McLane did when he axed Tim Purpura and Phil Garner back in 2007. Looking back the decision to appoint friend and former employee Ed Wade seems laughable. Wade did not deserve all of his punching bag status, but in my favorite GM article of the offseason, Grant Brisbee implied that the world is filled with far too many rational GMs, and Wade stood out as the game's only real sucker.
Luhnow meanwhile, may be somewhat of an unknown but as Astros County points out:
The national response to this hire has been mostly positive, an unusual phenomenon for recent Astros moves.
This translates as, if people in baseball (even Jon Heyman) are praising it, then they probably really like it. The Astros are making moves already, and Dave Gottfried ended his uneventful stint as interm GM. The canny swap of Marco Duarte to Boston for Marwin Gonzalez was perhaps a tacit admission by the club that Angel Sanchez just is not very good at playing baseball. Rhiner Cruz meanwhile looks like this year's Mark Melancon, but with severe control issues.
The Venezuelan prospect, who turns 23 before the season opens, spent five years in the Cubs farm system, and might form an intriguing double play combination with Jose Altuve. Sanchez's abysmally low .590 OPS and poor defence really has to be replaced. Gonzalez seems to hit for some average and draws his fair share of walks, but whether he has the ability to progress is something we will have to wait on.
Luhnow confirmed that Brad Mills has been given a stay of execution for a year, which he probably deserves, even with his silly platoon moves and baffling switches. Given a duff hand over the past two years, he could probably be a good manager if he actually had a competent major-league roster to work with.
Now Luhnow has to build on the foundations the Astros started during the Winter Meetings. The Indians are apparently interested in Carlos Lee, but would need to move someone before taking on $7-9m of his salary, they spoke to the Orioles about Brett Myers, however this quote worries me:
The Astros aren't willing to take money back on any deal involving Rodriguez because they feel he has a high trade value.
While I have constantly argued that moaning about Rodriguez's contract is a by-product of the national media's under-appreciation of the left-handed pitcher, I would not rule out paying a small portion of his contract if it brings back better prospects. With the potential savings of over $10m made on both Myers and Lee, both of which they will not have to pay in 2013, they should at least consider kicking in some $$$ to any Rodriguez deal.
Meanwhile we wait for Gio Gonzalez to be traded now that C.J. Wilson and Mark Buerhle are off the board before trade offers roll in for Wandy. How Luhnow makes the most of this market will be his first test. Don't expect any miracles, but do expect us to have a GM who will not be snickered at every time he announces a move.