Former Astros GM Luhnow buys Spanish soccer club Leganés

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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MADRID — An investment group led by former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who lost his job in baseball for sign-stealing, has bought Spanish soccer club Leganes.

“We will do all we can to improve this club,” Luhnow said in Madrid on Thursday after purchasing the second-division team for an undisclosed sum from prior owners Victoria Pavon and Felipe Moreno.

Leganes is a modest club based in a neighborhood of southern Madrid. The team finished 12th in the 22-team second division last season.

Two years ago, Luhnow and Astros manager AJ Hinch were suspended for one year by Major League Baseball after being found to have engineered a sign-stealing scheme using electronics during Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season. They were both subsequently fired in January 2020.

Luhnow heads Blue Crow Sports, an investment group that he said includes investors from the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Canada. Earlier this month, Blue Crow Sports completed its acquisition of Mexican club Cancun FC.

Leganes had been owned since 2008 by Pavon and Moreno, a local couple who took over when the club was mired in debt and playing in the third division.

The club earned promotion to the first division for the first time in 2016. It spent four seasons competing with the top teams in Spain before being relegated. Its greatest achievement came in 2017-18 when it beat Real Madrid on its way to reaching the semifinals of the Copa del Rey.

Luhnow’s talks began with the former owners in September. He said his group chose Leganes because they consider Spanish soccer to have the greatest growth potential in the European game, partly because of the league’s tight cost control measures and its recent investment deal with a private equity firm.

As Leganes new president, Luhnow said his group wants to build its youth teams, promote its women’s team, and invest in technologies such as the use of big data analytics.

“All sports have used technology to create advantages, and that is what we want to do,” Luhnow said in Spanish. “We have a group of people with experience including the Premier League and the MLS who know how to use technology, and Leganes can take advantage of that. Soccer is a bit behind other sports … but that is going to change in the coming years.”

Fried, Braves go to salary arbitration for 2nd straight year

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Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitcher Max Fried went to salary arbitration with the Atlanta Braves for the second straight year, asking for $15 million instead of the team’s $13.5 million offer.

The 29-year-old left-hander went 14-7 for the second straight season and lowered his ERA to 2.48 from 3.04 in 2021. Fried was a first-time All-Star last season, was second to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara in Cy Young Award voting and was third in the National League in ERA behind Alcantara and Julio Urias with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Fried won a $6.85 million salary last year instead of the team’s $6.6 million proposal in arbitration. That was after he pitched six shutout innings in World Series Game 6 as the Braves won their first title since 1995.

Fried, who is eligible for free agency after the 2024 World Series, had his case heard Friday by a panel that’s expected to issue a decision Saturday.

Players have won two of three decisions so far: Pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Miami Marlins. But Seattle defeated Diego Castillo ($2.95 million).

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe, whose case was argued Monday. About 20 more cases are scheduled through Feb. 17.