The Astros called a rather mysterious press conference on Monday afternoon at Minute Maid Park before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The only two attendees were owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Lunhow. In the end, it may have been the most anticlimactic mystery in Houston sports history and Crane announced Lunhow had been promoted to the position of President of Baseball Operations and given a contract extension through 2023.
We say anticlimactic because this seemed like little more than a formality given Lunhow's incredible success manning personnel decisions for the 'Stros since 2011. Of course, over his time with the ballclub, he has presided over the best and worst baseball in franchise history. Directing the team to tear down the existing roster and rebuild the flagging minor league system, the Astros suffered through three straight 100-loss seasons.
But, those down times led to outstanding draft decisions and deft personnel moves. Lunhow, starting over from scratch, managed to add cornerstones like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers, Jr. He also pulled off the trade of the year last season, nabbing Justin Verlander with literally seconds to go before the deadline. Those moves culminated in the first World Series win in club history, and Lunhow was named Executive of the Year.
This season, he added Gerrit Cole, turning the pitching staff into the best rotation in the majors. Philosophically, Lunhow has used advanced statistical analysis and new technologies like super slow motion to help even veterans like Verlander and Charlie Morton improve their games.
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There is no question he is one of the most respected GMs in baseball and would have, no doubt, been a coveted commodity, were he to be available. Crane ended any speculation on Monday by promoting Lunhow and his contract for the next five years.