Or, put another way ... one team's fortune is another team's misfortune?
The Astros are expected to announce major changes Monday, including the dismissal of general manager Ed Wade, according to major league sources.
The Astros, coming off the worst season in franchise history, aren’t expected to make many big-dollar moves this offseason. But Crane evidently wants his new GM and possibly his manager in place to evaluate the current players and shape of the organization moving forward. The Astros will move from the NL to the AL for the 2013 season.
Crane wants to rebuild the Astros from within, so he could seek executives who have had success with some of baseball’s best “homegrown” clubs: Andrew Friedman or Gerry Hunsicker with the Rays; Thad Levine or A.J. Preller with the Rangers; or Dan Jennings with the Marlins. (Jennings, who has a contract through 2015 in Miami, was denied permission to interview for the Orioles’ GM vacancy by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.)
This, of course, is exactly the kind of upheaval that many of us feared -- justifiably or otherwise -- when talk of News Corp. or the Gilbert/Crane collective buying the Rangers reached its zenith ... except that in this case, you have a team that's currently nowhere near playoff contention with no clear or truly definable rebuilding plan in the works, which does do a lot as far as making the whole tear-down-and-rebuild-the-front-office process more bearable for an already disgruntled fan base.
Now, insofar as the Rangers are concerned, Crane's decision to clean house presents a couple of different problems. As Ken Rosenthal mentions, Thad Levine and A.J. Preller are now very much potential GM targets again, and you're looking at a situation where a quick hire is required in order to avoid a situation where the Astros don't have a GM in place going into the winter meetings. I don't know whether that's a significant enough problem to necessitate accelerating the interviewing/hiring process, but it's understandable that Crane would want his new hand-picked front office in place before trying to assess and evaluate what the Astros currently have on hand, and what they need to do going forward.
In other words, this isn't going to take very long.
So, Preller and Levine have emerged as legitimate targets -- but so too has Mike Maddux, if this notion of Crane also firing manager Brad Mills has any legs:
The future of manager Brad Mills, who is under contract through 2012 with an option for ’13, also is uncertain. Mills could be part of the initial housecleaning, or his fate could be decided later by a new GM.
If the Astros fire Mills, he will join his close friend Terry Francona among the ranks of managerial free agents. Mills was Francona’s trusted bench coach with the Red Sox from 2004 through 2009, a period that included two world titles for Boston. If Francona and Mills are out of work at the same time, they will loom as a popular tandem to be brought in the next time a major league managerial spot opens.
Jamey brought up some of the logic that could drive a Maddux-to-Houston jump a week or two back (mostly having to do with his familarity with the Astros' organization/NL baseball and his family situation), and though there's been a whole lot made of Maddux committing himself to the Rangers for the 2012 season (and vice versa), I have to wonder what would happen if Mills was unceremoniously canned, and the Astros came calling for permission to interview Maddux yet this winter.
Would Maddux stick to his promise of returning to the Rangers next season, despite the potential cost of losing out on what may be the most ideal managerial landing spot in the game in light of his circumstances? Or would he do what I think he would do and pursue that opportunity, assuming that the Rangers granted their permission for him to do so (and I see little reason why they wouldn't)?
Of course, what I think Maddux would do and what Maddux actually would do may be mutually exclusive things, but in no way am I confident that the Rangers are going to make it through this final round of front-office and dugout talent poaching without losing somebody else that they'd rather not lose. I'm hoping that doesn't prove to be the case, but based on the information flowing in right now, I'm just not confident enough to do much more than hope.