The Astros impending GM hire must be someone who’ll fill the position for a long time.
The Astros have gotten some good press from their decision to hire Dusty Baker as manager. In the wake of the sign stealing scandal that cost Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch their jobs and still has the organization reeling, Baker’s presence will be key to the club’s success this season.
Now owner Jim Crane must turn his attention to finding a leader of the baseball operations department, and he’s indicated he will take his time in the search. This process needs to be a little different simply because the organization’s needs are different for this role.
I wrote how Baker being a short-term solution is a good thing. It’s an attempt to squeeze as much success out of this current core before things could drastically change in a couple of years. It’s the right move to make in looking for a manager, but bringing in a new GM is going to have a different set of considerations.
A Change is Gonna Come
The Astros are set to potentially undergo some drastic changes to the roster over the next couple of years. For starters, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel are all set to hit free agency following the 2020 season.
After 2021, Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr. and Roberto Osuna will all hit the market, unless of course they sign extensions before then. Of the core of the 2017 World Series team, only Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman will remain after 2021. The team could of course re-sign some of these players, but retaining all of them will essentially be impossible.
Now there should still be a solid offensive core in place with Altuve, Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, and possibly Myles Straw as well if he continues to develop his offensive game. But the pitching staff is nothing but uncertainty, especially with Verlander and Greinke getting into their late 30s.
The hope is that Forrest Whitley will blossom into the future ace, but that’s far from a lock at this point. The farm system has taken a hit the past few seasons, and with the loss of draft picks from the sign stealing scandal, it will be that much harder to develop top talent for the future.
Need a Vision
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Whoever runs the baseball operations department needs to have a vision not just for the next two years, but for the next five. Obviously you want to try and win another ring or two with the current group, and bringing in Baker will help with that. But there needs to be a long-term vision too.
The new GM needs to have a plan for keeping the team competitive beyond 2021, and that’ll be easier to do if you bring in that person now, as opposed to finding a placeholder. The decisions that have to be made this year, such as whether to re-sign Springer, will factor in to that long-term plan, so you want the same person making those moves.
The Astros could theoretically go for broke and push all their chips in for the next two years. They could bring in someone like Dave Dombrowski, who’ll likely trade Whitley and the other remaining top prospects to bolster the pitching staff and win a championship. Then, of course, they’d have to do a full rebuild following 2021, as they’ll have a bloated payroll with some aging stars and a gutted farm system.
But the better way would be to try and do a balancing act, keeping the team in contention the next two years without mortgaging the future. It’ll be difficult to do if the team is going to remain competitive in 2022, but the right person could make it happen.
The key is finding that person, believing in their vision and letting them get to work on it now. This isn’t a time to leave that issue for another day. This is the time to put a plan in place to keep the Astros competitive for the next several years. The window doesn’t have to close if you can find a way to keep it open, and Crane is smart to take his time to find the person to do this right.