Former Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow has filed a lawsuit against his former team for breach of contract, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. Luhnow was fired last January after details of the infamous sign-stealing scandal became publicly known via a league report, which alleged that Luhnow had at least some knowledge of the wrongdoing and (as the GM) was ultimately responsible for the actions of his employees.
In July 2018, Luhnow signed a contract extension that would have kept him in Houston through the 2023 season. The value of this extension wasn’t known, but Luhnow’s lawsuit claims the contract was worth “more than $31 million,” and that Luhnow’s firing cost him “more than $22 million in guaranteed compensation” as well as other benefits.
Some of the details of Luhnow’s lawsuit resemble statements his profession of innocence in an interview with KPRC’s Vanessa Richardson last month. Luhnow’s lawsuit alleges he was fired without cause, claiming that three documents used by the league as evidence against him in regards to his knowledge of the sign-stealing plan don’t directly mention “in-game electronic sign stealing.” For Luhnow’s most extensive public defense, check out his interview for Ben Reiter’s podcast.
Luhnow became “the scapegoat for the [Astros] organization” in the wake of the league’s investigation, which the lawsuit describes as “a negotiated resolution” between Astros owner Jim Crane and Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. According to the suit…
“The commissioner vetted potential penalties with Crane, and the two exchanged a series of proposals. Those negotiations proved beneficial to Crane and the Astros.
“The commissioner allowed the Astros to keep their 2017 World Series championship, imposed a $5 million fine (a fraction of the revenues Crane had reaped as part of the team’s recent success), and took away four draft picks. He also issued a blanket vindication of Crane, absolving him of any responsibility for failing to supervise his club.
“Moreover, Crane and the Astros were assured of fielding a contending team in 2020 — the team advanced to the American League Championship Series for the fourth straight year — because the commissioner did not suspend or penalize any of the players who were directly involved in the scandal.”
Luhnow and then-manager A.J. Hinch were also both issued season-long suspensions for their roles in the sign-stealing scandal, though the two men were fired the same day as the league’s report was released. Alex Cora, the Astros’ former bench coach and one of the architects of the sign-stealing plan, was also fired from his job as the Red Sox manager the next day and was later suspended for the 2020 season. (Carlos Beltran, then an Astros player who was also one of the chief organizers of the sign-stealing procedures, was also fired from his newly-installed position as manager of the Mets due to the fallout from the scandal, though Beltran faced no league discipline.)
Hinch and Cora, of course, returned to managing almost immediately after their suspensions were over — Hinch is now managing the Tigers while Cora was re-hired by the Red Sox. Luhnow’s lawsuit also alleges that Astros director of advanced information Tom Koch-Weser is “the ringleader of the Astros’ sign-stealing schemes” and a source of false information about Luhnow in the league’s report, claiming Manfred “let the ringleader keep his position in exchange for providing information that would implicate Luhnow.”