James Click: GM for Hire?
Reports that the Houston Astros may move on from GM James Click are starting. We answer why and if he'd be a good fit for New York.
Would the GM need to shave his beard if he came to New York?
The Background of James Click's Career:
After graduating from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 2000, James Click began his career with the Ziba Group as a technology consultant, where he worked for 5 years (Aug, 2000-Aug, 2005). It was during this time that Click also took first direct steps towards a career in baseball. In March of 2004 when Click accepted a position to write for BaseballProspectus, where he would help work and maintain their PECTOA sabermetric statistic. Most of all, it was during his time with BaseballProspectus that Click would work with and become familiar with Chaim Bloom.
Chaim Bloom accepted an offer with the Tampa Bay Rays as an intern early in 2005 and became their minor league coordinator in October of 2005. It was during this time that Bloom would recommend that the Rays hire Click as an intern (which Click accepted in 2005). This then lead to Click's first position in the MLB as a Director of Baseball Research & Development with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006. He would serve in this role for 10 years until 2016.
James Click then moved from R&D to Baseball Operations, accepting a position as one of the Vice Presidents in November 2016. As the Houston Astros put it on their front office directory, "In his role as the VP of Baseball Operations, Click was involved in guiding and overseeing all aspects of the baseball operations department. His areas of focus were research and development, strategic planning, and innovation, with particular attention on the Rays’ efforts to create and maintain department wide initiatives on player evaluation, player assessment, roster configuration, trade and contract negotiation, league relations, and staff management".
After working as the VP of Baseball Operations from November, 2016 to February, 2020, James Click left the Tampa Bay Rays organization after 14 years to join the Houston Astros as the 13th general manager in their history.
I wonder what plans were starting to click in his brain in this photo
His Drafting and Intl. Prospect Signing Record (in Houston):
How do you examine the career of a general manager? Especially somebody who has worked in the position for just under 3 years. So, it is important to look at what he came into, and what he's been able to do since then.
Coming into the job left vacant after the firing of Jeff Luhnow post 2020 suspension, James Click was left with a team that had:
Forfeited their 2020 & 2021 first round and second round draft picks
Just one prospect in the Top-100 (Forrest Whitley)
The 2nd highest payroll in the MLB (by CBA hit)
These were serious concerns for the Houston Astros going into James Click's tenure as the new General Manager for the organization. They were coming off the MLB's decision to suspend their former GM and manager as part of the (extremely minor) consequence for cheating their way to a 2017 World Series win, they had previously had a top-tier farm system throughout the late-2010's (see this chart), and they had a payroll in the bottom-half of the league.
In the 3 drafts under Crick, this is how he has done (as no players have reached the MLB yet):
Players Drafted: 4
Players Signed: 4
In 2022 Midseason Astros Top-30: 2
Alex Santos (#14) - Picked in 2nd Round (Compensatory)
Zach Daniels (#29) - Picked in 4th Round
Players Drafted: 19
Players Signed: 17
In 2022 Midseason Astros Top-30: 3
Tyler Whitaker (#25) - Picked in 3rd Round
Quincy Hamilton (#29) - Picked in 5th Round
Spencer Arrighetti (#16) - Picked in 6th Round
Players Drafted: 21
Players Signed: 20
In 2022 Midseason Astros Top-30: 5
Drew Gilbert (#2) - Picked in 1st Round
Jacob Melton (#6) - Picked in 2nd Round
Andrew Taylor (#17) - Picked in 2nd Round (Compensatory)
Michael Knorr (#27) - Picked in 3rd Round
Ryan Clifford (#8) - Picked in 11th Round
All things considered, this is a very solid draft profile for the general manager. Placing 10 players in 3 drafts in your Top-30 is very good. Especially when you consider that the 4 most valuable picks that the Astros had from 2020-2021 (Two 1st's, Two 2nd's) were unavailable to him based on what his predecessor did.
When it comes to signing international talent, we can also track how well Click has overseen two signing periods in 2021 and 2022:
2021 International Signing Period
Players Signed: 10
In 2022 Midseason Astros Top-30: 2
Pedro Leon (#4) - Signed for $4 Million
Miguel Ullola (#20) - Signed for $75,000
2022 International Signing Period
Players Signed: 15
In 2022 Midseason Astros Top-30: 2
Luis Baez (#23) - Signed for $1.4 Million
Kenni Gomez (#24) - Signed for $775,000
Adding another 4 players to a Top-30 prospect profile through the international draft over 2 years is also a solid sign. He's hitting on the obvious candidates (aka guys who signed for $1 Million+), and is also showing that he can find some diamonds in the rough.
James Click has also helped to drop the payroll of the Houston Astros in each of the seasons that he's been in control.
After the 2020 roster had a payroll (by their CBA tax) of $224,319,004.
In 2021, their roster had a payroll of $206,641,209.
In 2022, their roster will have an expected payroll of $198,286,143 at seasons end.
During this time, the Houston Astros record has done the following:
2020: 29 Wins, 31 Losses (.483 WP%) - 2nd in the AL West; Lost in ALCS
2021 : 95 Wins, 67 Losses (.586 WP%) - 1st in the AL West; Lost in World Series
2022 (so far): 92 Wins, 50 Losses (.648 WP%) - 1st in AL West; TBD
If James Click becomes available as a general manager after the season, it means two things:
The Houston Astros are foolish
Nearly every team in baseball (sans the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Rays) should be interested in bringing him in
The rumor mill has it that Click will become available if the Houston Astros don't make the World Series again this year. That's an incredibly tight leash that owner Jim Crane has for his team and for his young and recently new general manager. (Click is under his final year of his contract, so it'd technically be his decision if he wanted to go back, but the idea is that the Astros won't offer him a new contract if he doesn't make the World Series.)
Now, the question can be said: how much of the good from above was inherited from Jeff Luhnow? (Who by all standards was a successful GM during his tenure; sans the cheating scandals.) How much of it came from people elsewhere in the Astros organization? Being the general manager it is as important to be able to take things from the people below you as well as being the figurehead for what goes right and what goes wrong.
Maybe if the Astros let him go that should be a worrying sign about his quality as a general manager.
However, I'd like to believe that he's a top-tier candidate. He has the necessary qualifications that play well for current want-to-be GM's (i.e. coming from years under the Rays system), he's had success in the draft, in international scouting, and when putting together an MLB team.
Think about it. This guy came in and let Carlos Correa go. He's the one that decided bringing back Justin Verlander (who is, yet again, a serious AL Cy Young candidate) was the right move.
If he leaves the Astros, I'd greatly greatly implore the Yankees to consider him as their next general manager. The Brian Cashman era should end. It's been fleeting with success (the dynasty teams were not put together by him), that has only come when he had a blank checkbook to sign everything he needed at whatever cost. The message has gotten old. It's gotten boring to watch. It's been wasteful in terms of yearly salaries for players.
James Click would come in and fix this team in an instant. Or, so I'd believe.