GM James Click talking to Astros, but no new deal yet — ‘I’m optimistic’

LAS VEGAS — World Series-winning general manager James Click said Tuesday that he is in talks with the Houston Astros about a new contract but has yet to reach an agreement with the organization, leaving baseball’s champion architect in oblivion with the start of the offseason. .

Click’s contract expired on October 31, during the World Series in which the Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. He dismissed a USA Today report that he had agreed to a one-year deal, telling reporters: “We’re in discussions right now. I think any time you’re in discussions it means it’s not complete .”

Click said he discussed a potential contract with Astros owner Jim Crane on Monday in the hours between the team’s championship parade and his flight here for the annual general managers’ meetings. The Astros called a news conference for Wednesday afternoon, which Click said he found out about “recently” after the team announced it, during which they are expected to announce a contract extension for manager Dusty Baker. When Click was asked if he planned to be part of the press conference, he said, “I’m planning to be here trying to get the team together for next year.”

Click, 44, joined the Astros after they fired general manager Jeff Luhnow in 2020 following revelations that their 2017 championship team was involved in a sign-stealing scheme. In his first GM job, Click inherited a talented team that was reeling from the scandal. He helped stabilize the Astros, who declined to comment through a spokesman when contacted by ESPN.

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Philosophical differences between him and Crane left many in the Astros’ front office concerned about whether Click would return, sources told ESPN. Despite a World Series appearance in 2021, Click entered this season as a lame duck. Crane has increasingly leaned on advisers Jeff Bagwell and Reggie Jackson, both Hall of Fame players, according to sources. At this year’s trade deadline, ESPN reported earlier this week, Crane pulled off an agreed-upon trade that would have landed Astros catcher Willson Contreras from the Chicago Cubs for right-hander Jose Urquidy.

“We’re different,” Click said. “Jim is — well, look, let me clarify. There are some things that we do very differently. There are some things that we’re very aligned on, and that’s going to be true of any relationship between a boss and an employee. . I think He likes to move very quickly. In some cases, I lean toward a more deliberate approach. He’s very demanding, but he also gives you the resources to accomplish what He charges you to do.”

Click said he did not get the impression that Wednesday’s news conference would serve as a deadline to negotiate a new contract. His old deal, he said, was converted to employment-at-will status, allowing him to leave the Astros job for another team. Click said he would prefer the situation not come to that.

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“I’m optimistic,” he said. “My family is very happy in Houston. We’re settled in. I really like the city. The diversity is amazing. I honestly thought during the parade, one of the things that stood out for me was just the crowd, and that just shows what a global city Houston is and the culture that it has. It was on full display. The support that the city has, I’ve never been a part of anything like that. It was addictive. And my wife and I are really, really happy that our kids are happy. We feel very calm. I really hope to be back.”

Rarely do World Series-winning general managers not bounce back from their victories. And even less often they leave of their own free will. Former Astros assistant GM David Stearns stepped down from his role as president of baseball operations with the Milwaukee Brewers in late October, and although he remains under contract with the team, he is an exception. Perhaps the closest analogue to Click, if he doesn’t come to a deal, would be Alex Anthopoulos, the longtime Toronto Blue Jays GM who left the organization after hiring Mark Shapiro as team president.

“The opportunity to work with the people in the Astros organization,” Click said, “the opportunity to be a part of that culture in that clubhouse to be around the players, the caliber of players that we have, is almost impossible to find. . . . In every job is going to have things that are good and there are going to be things that are bad. You just have to take it all in balance.”

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Click declined to say what he was looking for in a contract, whether it was multi-year autonomy or more over baseball operations decisions. Managing a team with Crane involved is a different experience than his lone baseball job with the Tampa Bay Rays, whose owner, Stu Sternberg, is far more hands-off.

“I only have one other owner to compare it to,” Click said, “and it’s a little different than that guy.”

The uncertainty didn’t seem to bother Click, who joined his contemporaries during a media session at Resorts World Las Vegas, where GM meetings are being held before free agency begins Thursday. Until then, free agents are only allowed to re-sign with their current teams.

The Astros will have plenty to do this winter, with ace Justin Verlander, first baseman Yuli Gurriel and outfielder Michael Brantley among their free agents. Although the Astros would welcome Verlander back, Click said, the soon-to-be 40-year-old, who is expected to win the American League’s Cy Young Award, will be coveted among contending teams.

It remains to be seen whether Click will be around to follow Verlander as well. But after Saturday’s championship and the festivities that followed, Click came to Las Vegas with a plan regardless of his employment status. “I’m on a hot streak,” he said. “Figure I’m going to hit the tables.”

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