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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A new hotel is in the works near Minute Maid. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros owner Jim Crane says the team is ready to break ground on a major construction project that will include a hotel and entertainment complex across the street from Minute Maid Park as soon as the 2023 baseball season wraps up – hopefully with another World Series parade in downtown Houston.

AstrosWorld!

But another hotel? Another entertainment complex? More construction downtown? My first reaction was, how much more does Houston need? I remember when the Super Bowl was held in Houston in 2004, clubs and restaurants sprung up downtown practically overnight, only to disappear virtually the morning after. When it came to downtown development, the expression “less is more” turned out true. At least that Super Bowl.

I asked my contacts in government and the Houston welcome wagon, is this a good idea, building a hotel and entertainment complex next door to Minute Maid Park? Do we need it? Can we sustain it?

The answer every time was a resounding yes! For a couple of reasons: first, downtown Houston, coming out of Covid, is booming, leadership is creative and budget-minded these days, and most important, if Jim Crane is behind the idea, you can trust it’ll work. The guy’s got a track record.

“In 2004, the idea was to turn downtown’s Main Street into Bourbon Street. Is that what we really want? It was a misguided plan, the wrong philosophy, and businesses opened and closed in short order,” a source told me.

It was a different story when the Super Bowl returned to Houston in 2017. This time Houston saw the Marriott Marquis, a 1,000-room hotel complete with an iconic Texas-shaped swimming pool, open in time for the tourist onslaught. Also, Avenida Houston greeted downtown visitors with new restaurants and entertainment venues. Both the Marriott and Avenida Houston have continued to thrive long after the Super Bowl left town.

“We want our downtown to attract visitors while providing services for the growing number of singles and families who are making their home downtown. As we continue to host major events and conventions, there will be a need for more hotel rooms,” the source said.

The Astros’ plan to build a sprawling hotel and entertainment complex originally was discussed in 2021 but was put on hold due to Covid. Now Crane and the Astros are ready to come out swinging. Similar complexes operate successfully next to the baseball stadium in St. Louis, Chicago and other cities.

An Astros-themed hotel adjacent to Minute Maid Park is particularly intriguing. The lobby could be home to an Astros museum and team Hall of Fame. Rooms and restaurants could be decorated in honor of Astros legends – the “Nolan Ryan honeymoon suite,” or “Strech Suba’s Bullpen Bar and Grille.” There could be meeting space for autograph and memorabilia shows. There could be a broadcast facility for post-game interviews and analysis. And maybe one day, fingers crossed, a betting parlor like the Cubs have at Wrigley Field.

The Astros have a contract to play at Minute Maid Park through 2050 – the only long-term contract that doesn’t make Crane cringe. Anything that enhances the fan experience and generates revenue is good for the team and the city. I might even consider going downtown on non-game nights.

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