Recently, Brian McTaggart posted an article revealing Jeff Luhnow’s agenda for his visit to Japan. At first I didn’t think much of it. After seeing a post on MLB Trade Rumors, however, I have reconsidered my thoughts on the situation.
Some of the comments on the astros.com messageboard are criticizing Luhnow for being out of the country. The draft in two weeks away and there are many players deserving of a promotion. I think Jeff Luhnow, alongside Kevin Goldstein, are doing a very good thing for the Astros organization moving forward.
Astros fans are pretty familiar with Yu Darvish. If this world were scripted, Masahiro Tanaka would be in an Astros uniform, directly dueling Darvish. The Astros and Rangers rivalry could actually mean something. Instead, Tanaka is pitching his home games in the Bronx, in the pinstriped uniform of the New York Yankees.
Jeff seriously could not have taken a gamble of $150 million this early in the Astros rebuilding process. I may be one of the few to applaud him on failing to sign the coveted pitcher. Tanaka choosing to sign with the Yankees is an important message to MLB teams: if you’re familiar with me, I can be familiar with you.
People know we bid on Tanaka, and that was a surprise [in Japan] … I don’t want it to be a surprise next time. I want them to know, the good Japanese players, the Astros are going to be players, and we’ll have a presence there and the general manager has traveled over there” — Jeff Luhnow via Brian McTaggart
Read that quote again. It is not good that people are surprised that the Astros bid on Tanaka. Obviously the team has not posted good records lately. But if the team is going to explore the best of the best among international players, the players have to be familiar with the team. This is one of the many benefits, player recognition of the Astros organization, of increasing scout activity in Japan.
With the MLB draft, thousands of players are scouted across the country. Eventually the scouts break the list down into best player available. From there the decision to draft a certain guy is eventually made. What is being created through this process? Aside from weeding out draft candidates, the decision scientists are creating a database of players. With further scouting in Japan, the Astros would have reports on many of the MLB-caliber players. These could be utilized down the line when facing some players during a game.
Of course, these objective are all dependent on what Luhnow and Goldstein are able to accomplish in Japan. McTaggart notes that the Astros may be limited to “information-sharing” but perhaps could explore more beneficial “types of relationships” with the teams that play in Japan. Regardless of what is achieved in the few days to come, I appreciate the effort Luhnow is making with this trip.