HOUSTON -- The news broke late on a Wednesday night at the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas. Jeff Luhnow, a 45-year-old executive with the Cardinals, was set to become the first general manager hired by the Astros' new ownership group led by Jim Crane.The news broke when a former colleague
HOUSTON -- The news broke late on a Wednesday night at the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas. Jeff Luhnow, a 45-year-old executive with the Cardinals, was set to become the first general manager hired by the Astros' new ownership group led by Jim Crane.
The news broke when a former colleague of Luhnow let the cat out of the bag on Twitter, dragging reporters out of their beds and to their laptops and forcing the Astros to announce the hiring that night. Luhnow was introduced the next day in Houston, and six years later, he delivered the city its first World Series championship team.
"It was a crazy time for me, because I was working hard on the Cardinals' activity," said Luhnow, who was St. Louis' vice president of player procurement.
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The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, and they had spent much of the offseason negotiating with slugger Jose Pujols, who wound up signing with the Angels on the same day Luhnow was introduced in Houston as the Astros' GM. Luhnow was also helping the Cards prepare for the Rule 5 Draft, while simultaneously keeping in touch with Crane and team president George Postolos.
"I was getting more and more excited about the possibility of joining the Astros and trying to brush up and learn as much as I could about joining this organization," Luhnow said. "On the evening of [Dec. 7, 2011], it all came together. I haven't even reflected on that much recently, but we certainly have come a long a way from where we were then. I'm thrilled that I got an opportunity to be here for these last six years and shepherd this organization to the point we got this year."
Luhnow, of course, oversaw one of baseball's biggest rebuilding projects with the Astros. He traded away any player with value or a long-term contract, and he stockpiled prospects and Draft picks. After bottoming out at 111 losses in 2013, the Astros made the postseason in '15 and beat the Dodgers in seven games in the World Series this year.
Luhnow had been a vice president with the Cardinals since 2003, and he had overseen the Cards' amateur Draft since '05. Many of the players that contributed to St. Louis' '11 World Series title were drafted under Luhnow's watch, including Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jonathan Jay and Lance Lynn.
Luhnow's first transaction with the Astros came only hours after the news broke of his hiring when Houston acquired Marwin Gonzalez in a trade during the Rule 5 Draft the next day. In his first MLB Draft in 2012, Luhnow's first two picks were Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers, a pair of All-Stars in '17.
Luhnow later drafted Alex Bregman and Derek Fisher, traded for Jake Marisnick, Evan Gattis, Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove, Brad Peacock and Justin Verlander, signed Josh Reddick, Yuli Gurriel and Charlie Morton in free agency and acquired Collin McHugh and Will Harris off waivers.
Ed Wade, who had drafted Dallas Keuchel and George Springer, was fired as the Astros' GM in late November 2011, and David Gottfried was serving as Houston's interim GM before Luhnow took over.
"The Cardinals' suite was on the same floor as the Astros' suite," Luhnow said. "Literally, at 11 o'clock, I walked across the hall to a room with all the Astros people, many of whom I've known from earlier in my career. It was definitely a weird experience. I was excited for the change."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.