DALLAS -- The Astros turned to their division rival and the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals for their next general manager, announcing late Wednesday they had hired Cardinals vice president of player procurement Jeff Luhnow.

Astros owner Jim Crane will introduce Luhnow on Thursday at a 1 p.m. CT press conference at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

"We are very pleased to have Jeff as the new general manager of the Houston Astros," Astros president and CEO George Postolos said. "Jeff is the perfect fit for the Astros because of his track record in scouting and player development during his eight-plus seasons with the Cardinals.

"The Astros strive to develop one of the best systems in baseball and create a consistent winner at the Major League level. Jeff has the knowledge, skills and experience to lead the baseball operations efforts at all levels and help the Astros achieve this vision. Jeff has a demonstrated the ability to inspire and motivate staff in the front office and out in the field. He was born and raised in Mexico and his bicultural background will be an asset in recruiting players from Latin America and developing the Hispanic market for Los Astros."

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Luhnow, 45, will take over a club in a major rebuilding phase. The Astros, coming off a club-record 106-loss season, are committed to rebuilding through player development under the ownership of Crane, who took control of the club last month.

Luhnow has been a vice president with the Cardinals since 2003 and has overseen the Cardinals' amateur draft since 2005. Many of the players that contributed to the Cardinals' 2011 World Series title were drafted under Luhnow's watch, including Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Lance Lynn.

He added player development to his responsibilities in 2006 and was instrumental in the organization's Minor League successes since that time, including the best system record in baseball in 2010 and five Minor League championships from the rookie leagues to Triple-A.

Luhnow has overseen the Cardinals' scouting and development efforts in Latin America since 2004 that has produced Major League players and several top prospects. During his time with the Cardinals, the organization managed to build and maintain a strong farm system while at the same time winning at all levels, including three World Series appearances and two World Championships.