Luhnow Looks To Re-Establish Astros In Latin America
HOUSTON—Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow made the most of a 36-hour December trip to the Dominican Republic.
Seeking to build up Houston's talent pipeline in the Dominican at the
same time he revamps an improving farm system, Luhnow watched two games
at the organization's Dominican training academy before meeting with
big-name agents and trainers at a hotel near downtown Santo Domingo.
"In the past half a decade to a decade, the pipeline has really not
produced similar to the best teams in baseball. We need to get back to
that as quickly as possible," Luhnow said.
Luhnow was joined during the trip by assistant GM David Stearns and international director Oz Ocampo.
The first game they watched featured the Astros' Dominican instructional
team against an MLB amateur prospect squad. The second game highlighted
18 amateur players eligible for the annual July 2 international signing
"(The Astros') GM being here and their staff being here, it shows
they're serious about what this country will mean to them," said Rudy
Santin, a Santo Domingo-based agent who previously served as a longtime
scout for the Yankees.
Luhnow became more serious as a 15-hour workday evolved, trading a
stopwatch for a microphone during a welcoming party for Dominican agents
Speaking in fluent Spanish, Houston's GM enthusiastically addressed an
opinionated crowd that quickly became silent once his speech started.
Luhnow referenced Astros second baseman Jose Altuve
, a 2012 all-star who
is 22 and from Maracy, Venezuela, and signed as an amateur free agent
in 2007. He also mentioned other Astros with Latin American
origins—young players on a rebuilding team, crucial and affordable
talent for a big-market organization eyeing short-term improvement and
Luhnow saved his biggest point for the finale. He told the agents and
trainers they ultimately shared the same goals as the Astros. All
involved parties want their players to make the major leagues. Everyone
wins if the young, talented athletes succeed, he said.
"That relationship has been strained in the past," Luhnow said. "This
was an opportunity for me to express from our standpoint that we do
appreciate what they're doing, we do want to work in partnership with
• The Astros acquired righthander John Ely
from the Dodgers in exchange
for lefty Rob Rasmussen
. Ely, 26, won the Triple-A Pacific Coast League
pitching triple crown last season.
• Righthander Mickey Storey
, who pitched at Triple-A Oklahoma City and
in Houston in 2012, went through a waiver odyssey this offseason that
took him through the 40-man rosters of the Astros, Yankees and Astros
again. In late December, the Astros lost him to the Blue Jays.