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Why James Click Needs Time and Patience

James Click | Credit: Jim Rassol - USA TODAY Sports

In January 2020, following the reveal of the cheating scandal, Jim Crane fired the Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow, who was hired in 2011. Despite what some may think of Luhnow, he was very good at his job, building a dynasty that made five-straight ALCS appearances, three World Series appearances and won one World Series title. The Astros would eventually hire James Click, who was the Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Rays. It was inevitable that the comparisons would come out between the two. But before judging Click, he needs time and patience, and here is why.

DRAFT PICKS

Following the cheating scandal, the Astros not only lost their manager and GM, they also lost their first and second-round picks for the 2020 and the 2021 draft. This lack of draft capital hurts. Not only does it limit the influx of top talent into the system, it also affected their bonus pool and ability to go overslot on players they wanted to sign for more than their draft position called for. To make matters even worse, the 2020 draft was only five rounds long. The Astros did have a comp pick for the loss of Gerrit Cole so they ended up making four selections that year.

TRADE CAPITAL

Some people have criticized Click for his lack of trades, and understandably so. But you have to dig a little deeper to see why some of the big-name trades haven’t went down as expected.

Flashback to 2019, the Astros were sitting at 69-39 on July 31 when they executed a trade for starting pitcher Zack Greinke. The Astros received a really good starter but had to send out a good package to get him. The package consisted of:

Seth Beer – FIRST-ROUND pick in 2018

J.B. Bukauskas – FIRST-ROUND pick in 2017

Corbin Martin – SECOND-ROUND pick in 2017

Josh Rojas – Breakout prospect during the 2019 season

Let’s go back to 2017. The Astros were in need of another starter and had the perfect target in mind, Justin Verlander. Once again, the Astros received a really good starter but had to give up some top talent to get him. The package consisted of:

Daz Cameron – FIRST-ROUND pick in 2015

Jake Rogers – THIRD-ROUND pick in 2016

Franklin Perez – International free agent signed for $1 million

OTHER TRADES

Prior to the 2018 season, the Astros acquired a former No. 1 overall pick, Gerrit Cole, for a package that consisted of:

Colin Moran – Acquired via trade (former FIRST-ROUND pick)

Joe Musgrove – Acquired via trade (former FIRST-ROUND pick)

Michael Feliz – International free agent in 2010

Jason Martin – eighth-round pick in 2013

Prior to the 2016 season, the Astros were in need of a closer so they shipped a package for Ken Giles. The package consisted of:

Mark Appel – FIRST-ROUND pick in 2013

Vince Velasquez – SECOND-ROUND pick in 2010

Thomas Eshelman – SECOND-ROUND pick in 2015

Harold Arauz – International free agent

Prior to the 2015 season, the Astros were looking to add some offense and did just that trading for Evan Gattis. The package consisted of:

Mike Foltynewicz – FIRST-ROUND pick in 2010

Andrew Thurman – SECOND-ROUND pick in 2013

Rio Ruiz – FOURTH-ROUND pick in 2012

COUNT

By my count, for these trades Luhnow executed, he traded four first-round picks that he drafted plus two he acquired in trade and one drafted before he got to Houston. He traded three second-round picks he made and one that was made before him. That is a total of 11 first and second-round picks traded for major-league talent and other prospects. Click doesn’t have that available to him.

FARM SYSTEM

Luhnow took over and the Astros’ farm system was barren. Luhnow did a phenomenal job drafting stars like Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. But he also did so with high draft picks — something Click won’t have at his disposal for a while, hopefully. He traded veterans and got quality players back like Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, Jake Marisnick and a stud in Yordan Alvarez. Those veterans also brought in prospects who were shipped out in other deals. But there was also a lot of high-draft picks that were used to acquire major-league talent. As you can see from the Cole trade, Luhnow was able to use players he acquired by sending out major-league talent. He was able to make these trades, while still having talent in the system to supplement the major-league team.

CURRENT SYSTEM

While I admit I am biased, I do think the Astros’ system is better than advertised. We see what Jeremy Peña is doing at the major-league level. We have Hunter Brown showing off in Triple A. We see Korey Lee getting close, and Pedro Leon — who Click signed — is in Triple A. The Astros also have a lot of talent acquired by Click. But if the Astros wanted to acquire top assets in a trade, they would gut the system, trading the guys I just mentioned.

We saw Click make moves last year, acquiring a few relievers at the deadline. What the Astros and Click don’t have is the benefit of a deep-deep system. Luhnow was able to trade first-round picks to acquire elite talent, while Click doesn’t have any first round picks in the system that aren’t on the major-league roster or injured.

I know this is long-winded, but ultimately, Click needs time and patience. He needs the time to use the top picks the Astros will finally have to acquire a pool of talent — a pool that will supplement the major-league team and allow the Astros to trade for players. (It’s)? Time to trade certain veterans to get prospects like Myles Straw for Phil Maton and Yanier Diaz. After a few years, if Click still hasn’t made the big move or won big like we expect, then all bets are off. But he needs time to get the system back where it needs to be to replicate some of the success we saw from Luhnow.

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