It's good to be Jeff Luhnow right now. 'Cept for that whole 'record' thing.
In trying to figure out a way to react to today's huge trade, one thought kept popping up again and again.
Jeff Luhnow acted. He did not react.
For all the criticisms thrown at former GM Ed Wade, the most damning one may be that he let trades come to him and situations develop that lost him leverage. Roy Oswalt wasn't moved until he had publicly stated his trade demand and that farce drug on for most of the summer. Lance Berkman was also assumed to be leaving and it took forever to consummate anything. Same with Bourn and Pence.
All those trades didn't happen until right next to the deadline, too. That pressure limits decision-making time and can lead to some bad situations.
Luhnow had plenty of pieces to move since he took over, but it's the deals he made for pieces we didn't expect, guys like Mark Melancon, Humberto Quintero, Jason Bourgeois and now J.A. Happ where he really shone. You could make the case that all of those guys could have been traded at any time, but Luhnow moved them before it was expected. There was no time for it to drag out or for their unhappiness on this team to sabotage trade value.
Like I said, he acted, he did not have to react.
In thinking about Houston trades, this reminds me much more of the Carlos Beltran/Randy Johnson deals than anything, but its also on the level of the 2001 deal that saw Brad Ausmus come back to Houston.
If you remember back that far, Houston had a hot-shot rookie catcher named Mitch Melusky who apparently had a little too much Jordan Schafer and Jarred Cosart in him. He rubbed plenty of his teammates the wrong way. Instead of sitting on things and hoping Melusky would get better, GM Gerry Hunsicker flipped him to Detroit and picked up a bundle of useful pieces, including Ausmus. He fixed the chemistry problem on his team and struck before the bloom was off Melusky's rose.
As I said, I've seen that in a number of Luhnow's deals now. He's not only acting before he has to, he's also being creative in how he does it. Trading away his young, cost-controlled closer was creative, but making this move is equally creative.
Let's consider: Toronto is in the market for a left-hander. Toronto has been seeing Houston's games. Wandy Rodriguez has been rumored to be on the market for a solid year now. Toronto is on record that they didn't think he could pitch in the AL East.
So, what did Luhnow do? He traded the other lefty, J.A. Happ, who has shown plenty of potential this year, but always feels like he's seconds away from disaster. Not content with the deal he was getting, Luhnow expanded the deal.
That's an important point. He didn't just flip the pitcher Toronto wanted, he had enough time to build a bigger deal, to really boost the minor league system. He got rid of an older piece and a younger piece in the bullpen, but also accomplished that shakeup of relievers we contemplated since the All-Star break.
I thought my opinion of Luhnow couldn't get higher than what he did with Carlos Lee (I still can't believe he traded him not once, but TWICE in one week. Wow.), but it did. I feel better about how this team is being run than any time since 2004. I'm not crazy about how the team is playing, but I fully expect more trades to pop up in the next few weeks.
After all, Jeff Luhnow is a man of action, and that is a pretty great thing.