James Click is in as the Astros’ new GM, and the Mariners signed lefty Marco Gonzales to a four-year extension. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has what you need to know in today’s video!
7:36pm: Click received a multi-year commitment from the Astros, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link).
6:14pm: The Astros have decided upon James Click as their new general manager, per a club announcement. Click had served as Rays vice president of baseball operations.
Having already installed Dusty Baker as its new manager, the scandal-ridden Houston organization has now replaced its prior leadership team. Manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were suspended and fired for lack of oversight in the sign-stealing episode that clouded the team. Owner Jim Crane, who sat atop of those two in the organizational hierarchy but escaped censure or discipline, led a fast-moving hiring search.
Meanwhile, it’s another major departure for the Rays, who had touted a three-person baseball operations leadership team that included Erik Neander, Chaim Bloom, and Click. While Neander still commands the GM seat in Tampa Bay, he’ll now be doing battle rather than collaborating with Bloom (now the Red Sox chief baseball officer) and Click in the American League.
Click, a Yale grad, had been with the Rays since 2006. He entered the organization as a baseball ops coordinator, then touched most all the bases on his way up the food chain.
The team’s account of his most recent position reads as follows: “he is involved in all aspects of the baseball operations department with a focus on baseball research and development, baseball systems, clubhouse operations and departmental logistics.” Click had been tasked with an expanded role following the departure of Bloom. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand spoke with Click last year on his podcast, if you’re interested in learning more.
Click seems sure to fit right into the Astros’ analytically oriented system after 14 years with the Rays. Crane explained that the organization “zeroed in” on Click after several interviews, noting that “he comes from a team that does a lot of things like we do.” Click simply “knew exactly what we were doing,” says Crane, and “felt he could add another dimension to it.” (Via Mark Berman of FOX 26; Twitter links.)
At the same time, Click will presumably be tasked with instilling discipline and establishing ethical guidelines for a baseball operations outfit that actively participated in the sign-stealing scheme. Commissioner Rob Manfred determined that, while Luhnow had not directed or specifically engaged in the malfeasance, he had created an “insular culture – one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations, combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight.” Though Crane disputed the findings of Manfred in that regard, and we can’t know how he’ll direct his new baseball operations leader, we may at least hope that Click will make a positive impact on the Houston baseball ops group.
There’ll obviously be a longer-term process for Click as he takes the helm in Houston. But he also faces an immediate challenge of preparing for Spring Training in just two weeks’ time. The Astros roster is loaded with talent and largely complete, depending upon one’s perspective (and Crane’s willingness to spend). But Click will no doubt have his own preferences on the margins, if not even some relatively larger thoughts on preparing for a season in which the Astros will again be among the favorites in the American League even in spite of their self-inflicted wounds.
The Astros have spent a large portion of January reeling from the fallout of their 2017 sign-stealing scandal – one that cost them championship-winning GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. They’ve already replaced Hinch, having hired decorated veteran skipper Dusty Baker on Wednesday, but there’s no successor to Luhnow yet. However, the Astros continue to tack on candidates in their quest to replace him.
Houston has interviewed Royals director of pro scouting/special assistant Gene Watson and Rays vice president of baseball operations James Click for its GM role, per reports from Jeff Passan of ESPN.com and Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Watson and Click join MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations, Peter Woodfork, and former Giants GM Bobby Evans as known candidates for the Astros’ vacancy.
It’s notable that Evans worked with Baker when the two were in San Francisco, but there’s no indication he or anyone else is the favorite at this point. It seems the Astros will continue to take their time in finding a new GM, as Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle explains. For now, owner Jim Crane and a four-executive team consisting of assistant GM Pete Putila, special assistant Kevin Goldstein, senior director of baseball strategy Bill Firkus and senior director of player evaluation Ehsan Bokhari are at the helm. That quartet played a part in Crane’s decision to hire Baker, per Rome, though it’s not clear whether anyone from it will emerge as a GM candidate for the club. It may not look good if the Astros do hire an in-house GM, considering that individual would have connections to the Luhnow-Hinch regime.
As for the newest outside possibilities, Watson – a Texas native – is a two-time World Series champion (2003 Marlins, 2015 Royals) with a long scouting history who has worked in Kansas City in various capacities since 2006. The Yale-educated Click caught on with the Rays the same year Watson joined the Royals. Click has since worked his way toward the top of a Rays front office that already lost another noteworthy exec earlier this offseason in Chaim Bloom, who became Boston’s chief baseball officer.