Sean Pendergast

James Click's Houston Astro GM Tenure — Three Best Moves, Three Worst Moves

Acquiring Rafael Montero was one of James Click's best move as GM of the Astros.
Acquiring Rafael Montero was one of James Click's best move as GM of the Astros. Photo by Jack Gorman
Much has been made about the Houston Astros' culture behind the scenes over the last few days, since the departure of former Astros general manager James Click. There has been everything from snide, little drive by comments by some writers in free agency prediction columns to attempted nuclear bombs on Jim Crane's ownership style.

In the end, none of the conjecture about Crane's management style matters, as the Astros' owner will continue to run the team as he sees fit. One thing we can do, though, is officially close the book on the James Click Era. While Click's apologists probably overstate just how much he meant to this team's second world title, there is no denying he did some good things while in charge. He also had some moves he'd probably like back.

So let's take a look at the top of each of those lists — James Click's three best moves and three worst moves as the Astros' GM:

THREE BEST MOVES

3. Signing Ryne Stanek
There is no denying that Click had a knack for finding cheap labor with upside for the Astros' bullpen. Lots of it. Stanek was probably one of his biggest success stories. Signed in January 2021, Stanek quickly turned into a guy the team turned to to get important outs in 2021. In 2022, he took a big step forward, leading all relievers in ERA at 1.15. Stanek didn't see much action in the postseason, for whatever reason, but there is no denying at a total income of just over $3 million for two seasons, this was a great value play by Click.

2. Trading for Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero
From there, the success in tooling the bullpen continued for Click at the 2021 trade deadline. He brought in Phil Maton from Cleveland, and Yimi Garcia, from Miami, but his big move, which proved to impact 2021 and 2022 was the trade of Abraham Toro and Joe Smith to Seattle for Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero. Graveman was a key setup guy for the 2021 team, and Montero, who was injured in 2021, was so good in 2022, that he just earned a three-year, $34.5 million extension this week.

1. Collaborating with Crane on the big contracts
Truth be told, the best and most impactful moves made on Click's watch were big contracts to existing Astros. Retaining Michael Brantley in 2021 (two years, $32 million) and Justin Verlander in 2022 (1 year, $25 million) proved to be big moves, especially Verlander. The extension given to Yordan Alvarez during the 2022 season (six years, $119.5 million) may age as one of the best deals in baseball. These all come with the caveat, especially the Verlander deal, that the fingerprints of Crane are all over these, as well.

THREE WORST MOVES

3. Rolling with Jake Meyers
Centerfield was a big issue for this Astros team for most of 2022. Eventually, Chas McCormick settled the position down in the postseason, but throughout the 2022 regular season, the position was a black hole in the Astros' lineup. Crane reportedly wanted Click to aggressively pursue All Star CF Starling Marte, but Click backed away from Marte and decided to bet on Jake Meyers instead. Reportedly, Crane asked Click if he'd bet his life on Meyers being a solid everyday player, and Click said yes. And now Click is (figuratively) dead.

2. Signing Pedro Baez
A week after signing Stanek in 2021, Click signed reliever Baez to a three-year, $12.5 million deal. This deal was a disaster from the jump, as Baez was injured, and ultimately pitched a total of 6.2 innings for the Astros before the Astros released him on April 27, 2022. Let's just move on.

1. Signing Jake Odorizzi
In spring training of 2021, Framber Valdez suffered a broken finger that some thought might threaten a big chunk of his 2021 season. Click went into triage mode, signing the former All Star, Jake Odorizzi, to a two-year deal with a player option. Odorizzi made $22 million for 35 starts, a 10-10 record, and a 4.04 ERA. Odorizzi was the rare starting pitcher who got worse as an Astro, and thankfully, Click was able to unload him on the Braves at the trade deadline before Odorizzi could exercise his $12.5 player option for 2023 on the Astros' watch.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast