DEAL IS DONE?

After a week of rumors, Astros finally add starting pitcher Cole

Gerrit Cole will apparently be an Astro. Sbnation.com

The Astros have turned up the heat in the Hot Stove season, making a huge splash today by adding another strong arm to their rotation: Gerrit Cole. Cole adds an immediate improvement to an already championship-caliber roster and rotation. Sources are currently stating that the Astros will send third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jason Martin and pitchers Michael Feliz and Joe Musgrove to Pittsburg in the trade.

Cole finished the 2017 season with a 12-12 record in 33 starts with the Pirates. His ERA was 4.26 last season, the highest of his 5-year run with Pittsburg. He also allowed 31 home runs last year, a high number compared to his yearly averages.

Cole's most reason playoff appearance was in the NL Wild Card game in 2015 where he was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs in five innings to the Cubs. He also started two NLDS games in his 2013 rookie season, splitting those starts to go 1-1, the loss coming in the decisive Game 5 versus the Cardinals.

However, Cole has tremendous upside and is a lot better than last season's numbers, as evidenced by his 2015 season. In 2015, he finished fourth in Cy Young voting after a 19-8 season with 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings pitched. The Astros pitching coaches led by Brent Strom have shown they can get the best out of pitchers so this move can pay off huge if they can get him back to 2015 form or better. 

This move unquestionably gives an immediate upgrade to the Astros' rotation, something they will desperately need considering some of their biggest foes in the AL have made moves this offseason to improve their offense. The move does somewhat improve the bullpen by potentially moving Brad Peacock there, though it sounds like the Astros did give up two bullpen pieces in Feliz and Musgrove in the trade. 

Projected 2018 Astros Starting Rotation:

Verlander
Keuchel
Cole
McCullers
Morton

That rotation, paired with the already potent Astros offense, sets Houston up for another deep run in 2018, and they didn't even have to trade any "untouchable" players to do it. 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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