Newly minted Houston Astros owner, Jim Crane, has wasted little time in reconfiguring the baseball operations of the club. Crane and his ownership group celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday by handing out pink slips to both team president Tal Smith (the guy for whom that hill is named) and general manager Ed Wade.
Wade, according to a piece at Hardball Times, is owed not one, but two more years on his contract, so the Astros will be paying two general managers for each of the next two seasons. This seems of little concern to Crane, however, and rumors of the next GM are already beginning to surface. Among the top candidates for the job are Rays GM Andrew Friedman, who is a candidate for every GM opening, Gerry Hunsicker, a former Astros GM now working in the Tampa Bay front office, and Rangers Assistant GM Thad Levine.
Levine, no doubt, would be an ideal hire. As a first-time GM, Levine wouldn’t command the salary that someone like Hunsicker or Friedman likely would. That alone would make Levine a more palatable choice in Houston, but Levine’s background cretainly helps as well. Not only has been been heavily involved in the building of an elite farm system in Arlington, but having worked under John Hart and Jon Daniels in Texas also makes him a top candidate on resume alone.
The Astros would like to have their new GM in place as early as possible, especially with the Winter Meetings beginnings next week in Dallas.
This is kind of worst-case scenario for the Rangers and their fans. Not only does Wade’s firing immediately open up possibilities that the Rangers front office could be crippled with departures (should Levine leave, he’ll likely take at least one person with him to his new gig), but the new GM will likely also have his choice of managers. Brad Mills has not yet been let go in Houston, but if Levine were to get the GM job, it wouldn’t be difficult to envision Mike Maddux joining him as field manager. Maddux was considered a top candidate for the managerial jobs in Boston and with the Cubs, but withdrew from each to remain close to his family in Texas. Obviously, a gig in Houston would alleviate those concerns.
The Rangers have worked hard and built a model franchise over the past handful of years, and done so despite an ownership change the like of which had rarely been seen in baseball. They’ve done so by maintaining a continuity within their front office and field personnel. It’s only a matter of time before many of those individuals begin advancing their careers with another organization. You’d just rather see it happen in late October and early November that on the cusp of the Winter Meetings.