On Thursday, the team announced the appointment of the Braves’ vice chief scout Dana Brown as their new Astros general manager. He will replace James Click, who held the position from 2020-22 but left after the season.
“We are excited to have Dana join our organization,” Astros owner Jim Crane said in a press release today. “He brings championship-caliber experience to our team and is the right person for us to continue to deliver a winning franchise on and off the field. We welcome Dana and his family to the Astros.”
Brown has been the Braves’ vice president of draft picks for the past four seasons, overseeing draft picks that landed Braves talent such as Spencer StryderAnd Michael HarrisAnd von GrissomAnd Shea Langlers And Bryce Elder. Before being hired by Atlanta in 2019, he was a front-office special assistant for the Blue Jays for nine years — overlapping with Braves current president of baseball operations (and former Toronto general manager) Alex Anthopoulos for much of that stint. Brown had spent the previous nine seasons as the Expos/Nationals’ director of scouting and was the district supervisor and auditor for the Pirates’ scouting department for eight years in the 1990s.
Even six months ago, the idea that the Astros needed to hire a new general manager would have registered as something of a surprise. There have been reports of growing friction between the Crane and Click late in the 2022 season, but a win tends to cure everything, and the Astros not only held a postseason run, but took home their second World Series title in the past six seasons — Click Click the first in just his third year on the job.
However, while 73-year-old captain Dusty Baker was content with a one-year extension despite just picking up a championship, Click understandably sought a multi-year offer as his original three-year contract loomed. Crane put forward what was widely seen as a nominal one-year extension offer — Click’s World Series counterpart Dave Dombrowski, for comparison, was extended to 2027 by the Phillies — which was quickly rejected by Click. Astros Announcing Click’s departure Two days later, on the same day, GM assistant Scott Powers was firedwhom Click had hired away from the Dodgers in January 2022.
The Astros operated without a general manager all season. Crane personally played a large role in baseball operations, negotiating a three-year, $34.5 million contract with Rafael Montero to return to the club and Jose Abreu’s three-year, $58.5 million contract. Assistant general manager Bill Firkus, Andrew Paul and Charles Cook have held roles near the top of the hierarchy, and former Astros star and current front office consultant Jeff Bagwell has also reportedly influenced decisions for the baseball team.
Brown will now rise to the top of the Astros’ baseball operations division, ostensibly with complete autonomy over the team’s decisions moving forward. Reports indicated that Crane was more involved than most owners even before Click’s departure—him Deadline trading canceled He would have sent Jose Urquidi to the Cubs for Wilson Contreras—only time will tell if he has a hands-off approach to his new general manager.
The appointment of Brown as general manager represents at least a philosophical shift away from modern systems. Former President of Baseball Operations Jeff Lono, who was fired in the wake of the trash scandal in 2017, has been among the key voices in revolutionizing the analytics of modern baseball’s front offices. Click, meanwhile, came from a similarly data-driven Rays organization, where he served as vice president of baseball operations, and according to Rays (at the time of his Houston hire) had a “focus on baseball research and development” and “baseball systems,” from among other responsibilities.
This isn’t to say that Luhnow and Click didn’t have any exploratory acumen themselves, just as it doesn’t mean that Brown isn’t familiar with many of the data-oriented principles that guide modern front-office (to varying degrees). However, Brown’s background is rooted more in traditional genres than player assessment. The Astros, under Luno, moved away from in-person scouting to focus more on video scouting. This is already beginning to change under Click, who worked hard during his senior year to replenish some of the exploration resources lost under the previous regime’s turnaround.
Just as we don’t yet know if Crane’s hands-on approach will change with Brown in the GM chair, it’s impossible to say if the Astros will place a more intense focus on scouting — or at least a more balanced mix of data-based scouting and probing assessments. Brown and Crane will certainly talk about this issue in the near future; The Astros called a press conference at 2 pm to formally introduce their new general manager.
FOX 26’s Mark Berman first reported that Brown would be Houston’s new general manager (Twitter link).
Image courtesy of the Houston Astros.