He joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003 and helped them open their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. He became the Scouting Director in 2005, later rising to the level of Vice-President with responsibilities for the amateur draft and player development, including a particular focus on Latin America. On December 7, 2011, he was hired by the Houston Astros to be their new General Manager, replacing interim GM Dave Gottfried, who had himself replaced the fired Ed Wade only a week earlier.
Luhnow was born and raised in Mexico, something which was an asset when focusing on player development in Latin America for the Cardinals. When hired by the Astros, he was given a clear mandate by President George Postolos to improve the team's performance in that area. When he was named to the position, the Astros had just completed the worst season in team history and he received a mandate to break up the team and start over from scratch in anticipation of the team's move to the American League in 2013. Getting rid of all experienced players with trading value and piling up prospects, the Astros set a new franchise record for losses in 2012. Luhnow hired Bo Porter to be the team's manager starting in 2013, with the plan that he would bring the youngsters now making the team into a coherent whole. It did not work at first, as the Astros set a new franchise record for losses for the third straight year, but the turnaround began in 2014, as the Astros were no longer a laughingstock. They passed the previous year's number of wins in mid-August and were out of the AL West cellar, with a number of young players starting to emerge as as stars, but on September 1st, Luhnow fired both Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley, naming Tom Lawless as interim manager.
The double firing was seen as the result of a power struggle within the organization. Luhnow had faced a lot of criticism for the little initial return on the team's three consecutive first overall picks in the amateur draft: Carlos Correa, the 2012 top selection, was out for the season with an injury; 2013's Mark Appel had struggled very badly in Class A, and the top choice in 2014, Brady Aiken did not even sign with Houston in a move that made the Astros miss out on two other top draft picks who went unsigned as a result. Luhnow was blamed for mishandling the negotiations, and also for a leak of some of his computer notes that revealed details of trade talks that embarrassed a number of his colleague GMs, who had not wished their private conversations to ever become public. With the Astros playing better than they had in years, Porter was on the ascendancy and Luhnow apparently gave upper management an ultimatum: he needed full reign to continue the plan he had begun to put in place when he was hired, and that included getting rid of the increasingly uncooperative Porter. He won that struggle, although critics were wondering whether the Astros had bet on the correct horse.
Whatever critics there might have been at the end of 2014, the were quickly dismissed when his choice for the team's new manager, A.J. Hinch, was widely seen as a good one. The Astros then got off to an excellent start in 2015 and the previous year's unpleasantness was forgotten. The arrival in Houston of more members of the team's haul of top-rank prospects, particularly SS Correa and P Lance McCullers put the focus back on the fact that the team had young talent in abundance, an impression that was further encouraged by the team's central role in the 2015 amateur draft. Holding two of the top five picks because of Aiken's failure to draft, as well as a supplemental 1st round pick and one of the top picks of the second round, the Astros went all out, picking three of the seven top-ranked players in the draft in SS Alex Bregman, OF Kyle Tucker (brother of their own Preston Tucker) and OF Daz Cameron.
With the Cardinals, Luhnow had built a state-of-the-art computerized player information system called "Redbird", that included everything from scouting reports to personal information on every player in the organization. When he moved to the Astros, he replicated this with a system called "Ground Control". On June 16, 2015, however, the cardinals announced that at least one member of their front office was under investigation by the FBI for hacking into the Astros' system, apparently by using knowledge and passwords that had previously been used in St. Louis.
Prior to his baseball career, he was General Manager and VP of Marketing for Petstore.com and founder of Archetype Solutions.
|Houston Astros General Manager
- Bob Nightengale: "FBI investigating Cardinals' alleged hacking of Astros' computer system", USA Today Sports, June 16, 2015.