8:28pm: Crane doesn’t sound as if he’s leaning towards a leadership change, telling Mark Berman of Fox 26 he’s “aware both contracts are up and we’ll address them at the end of the season. We don’t want any distractions right now” (Twitter link).
6:50pm: The exact terms of James Click’s deal with the Astros weren’t publicized when he was hired in February 2020, but Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports that Click’s contract only runs through the conclusion of the 2022 season. It isn’t known if any extension talks have yet taken place or will place, but Rome writes that “within the organization, speculation about [Click’s] future has been a growing topic since the end of spring.”
After spending 14 years in the Rays front office, Click took over the Houston job in rather abrupt circumstances, hired less than a month after former GM Jeff Luhnow was fired in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal. That organizational shake-up also cost A.J. Hinch his job as manager, leading to Dusty Baker’s hiring shortly before Click was brought on as the new head of baseball operations.
Given all of the tumult and controversy surrounding the Astros in the last few years, there hasn’t been much carryover to the on-field product. Houston finished 29-31 in the shortened 2020 season but still reached the playoffs, and advanced all the way to the ALCS. In 2021, Houston won 95 games, recaptured the AL West title, and advanced to the World Series before falling to the Braves in six games.
With a 90-50 record thus far this season, the Astros have the best record in the American League, and are again top contenders to win another championship. In a recent podcast appearance, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal implied that some postseason success could be a necessity for Click, as “there could be some [front office] maneuvering if the Astros sputter in the playoffs.”
Even if Houston did get upset in their first postseason round, it would still seem like Click has earned a bit more leeway given the team’s record over his two-plus seasons. However, as Rome notes, the Astros also took something of a wait-and-see approach with Baker — the manager initially signed a one-year deal with a club option that was only exercised after the 2020 season was complete, and Baker’s next contract was another one-year deal that is also up after the 2022 campaign.
It could be that Astros owner Jim Crane is again waiting until the season is completely over to work out extensions with Baker and Click, with the focus being solely on baseball for the present. Of course, that strategy also carries risk, as any teams with front office or managerial vacancies could then emerge as other suitors for Click or Baker’s services.
If Crane was indeed considering a change, it would immediately make Houston one of the most sought-after employment destinations in baseball for any general manager. The Astros are set up to be contenders for some time to come thanks to their fantastic core of both established and young talent — and that could also factor into Crane’s logic in perhaps wanting to move on. Much of the Astros’ roster was already in the organization before Click was hired, so it is possible Crane could see him as something of a steward of Luhnow’s work. Given the rather rushed circumstances behind Click and Baker’s hirings, Crane might prefer to take more time in a longer search to find the leader (or leaders) of the next chapter of the Astros’ future.