ROCK STAR STATUS

Yeah, the Houston Astros are giving off John Lennon vibes

Astros Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Martin Maldonado, Jose Urquidy, Jose Altuve
The Astros are the toast of the town. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The signing of free agent first baseman Jose Abreu on Monday shows one more time that baseball is Jim Crane’s world and 29 other teams are supporting players on a reality show called Keeping Up with the Astros.

Crane, owner of the World Series champs, parted ways with general manager James Click earlier this month. So what does Crane do without a front office boss during this free agent season? He turns around and negotiates a deal on his own with former MVP and 3-time All-Star Abreu, one of the most coveted free agents who just happens to fill a hole in the Astros lineup.

Crane is now Jerry Jones, both team owner and general manager, with one big difference: Crane’s team has won titles this millennium.

What does the Abreu signing mean for the Astros’ chances of repeating as World Series champions in 2023? And what does it mean for arch rival Yankees?

One headline Tuesday put it this way:

“Yankees Season Over Before It Even Started.”

Abreu, who puts the “every” in everyday player (he played 157 games last year and hit .304), will take over for Yuli Gurriel at first base. Gurriel, who is a free agent, may be brought back by the Astros as a utility player.

If you’re looking for hardware, Ace is not the place – try the Astros batting order. Manager Dusty Baker will fill out a lineup card with Jose Altuve (MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, 3 batting titles), Jeremy Pena (ALCS MVP, World Series MVP, Gold Glove), Yordan Alvarez (Rookie of the Year, ALCS MVP, Silver Slugger), Alex Bregman (All-Star Game MVP, Silver Slugger), Kyle Tucker (Gold Glove), Jose Abreu (MVP, Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger).

Don’t be surprised if Justin Verlander, the last piece of Crane’s announced puzzle, returns to the Astros next year, and two years after that. Verlander is chasing career goals like 300 wins. Where does he stand the best chance of getting there?

At the moment, the 2023 Astros batting order falls off the cliff 7-9 with Chas McCormick (.245 in 2022), Jake Meyers (.227) and Martin Maldonado (.186). But who’s to say that general manager/owner Crane is done dealing?

The Astros aren’t just successful on the field. They’ve won the hearts and minds of Houstonians. Astros baseball has become sort of a religion in recent years.

In 1966 John Lennon told a magazine writer that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Lennon caught hell for that remark and had to apologize. On a less ecumenical matter, the Astros might say they’re more popular than Thanksgiving and sorry not sorry.

Earlier this month, the Astros drew a million people to their downtown World Series celebration. Last week, they held the Thanksgiving Parade in Houston and many of the sidewalks looked like the upper deck at Texans games – maybe 20,000 people at the parade and I’m being generous.

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Everyone is talking about the Texans! Composite Getty Image.

How quickly things can change in a year. Just last April, Texans fans were on the edge of their seats hoping the organization would land their franchise quarterback in the NFL Draft.

Fast-forward to 2024 and the state of the Texans franchise is almost unrecognizable. NBC Sports' Mike Florio is making statements about how the NFL must love the Texans because they are the proof that any team can turn their franchise around in one year. Which makes the NFL Draft look even more important. Draft picks give fanbases hope, and unlike baseball and to some extent basketball, many of the top picks start right away.

More Texans love

Other national media members like Colin Cowherd are creating segments about which teams could be the 2025 version of the Texans. In fact, Cowherd praised the Texans last week for reaching out to him two years ago for information about Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.

Post-free agency he picked the Texans to miss the playoffs, but it seems like he's rethinking his prediction.

Counterpoint

Some in the media have their concerns about the Texans trade for Stefon Diggs. Ross Tucker was a guest of the Rich Eisen Show and questioned if wiping the remaining years off of Diggs' contract was a good idea.

First, he thought trading a 2025 second-round pick was too much to give up for a player on a one-year deal. But his second point made us stop and think. He compared this situation to something he experienced in his playing career. He's worried that if Diggs isn't getting enough targets and production in a contract year, he might become a problem.

And the Texans have plenty of weapons to spread the ball to this year with Nico Collins, Diggs, Tank Dell, Dalton Schultz, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, Joe Mixon…you get the point.

So we did a little digging into the numbers. There's a scenario in which the Texans could have two receivers go over one thousand yards.

Everybody eats!

We can just look around the league and see that both the Eagles (AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith) and Dolphins (Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle) did it in 2022 and 2023. The Bengals (Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins) also had two receivers go over a thousand yards in 2021 and 2022.

CJ Stroud averaged 274 passing yards per game in 2023, if we multiply that number by seventeen games that puts CJ at 4,658 yards. Nico Collins had 1,297 yards in 15 games last season, and Stefon Diggs recorded 1,183 receiving yards. So that would leave 2.178 yards for the other pass catchers in the offense.

While it's unlikely Tank Dell gets to one thousand if everyone stays healthy, he could get fairly close. Stroud doesn't throw to his running backs all that often, and the Texans should have Dell, Diggs, and Collins together on the field more than fifty percent of the time.

Don't count him out

Texans quarterback CJ Stroud met with the Houston media this week and talked about the team's wide receiver room, which now includes Stefon Diggs.

One of the other names he brought up was receiver John Metchie III. Stroud said he's looking good in workouts, so he could be another mouth to feed in the Houston offense.

And considering how the season finished in Baltimore for the Texans, having too many receivers is a good problem to have. If we only look at the wide receivers and eliminate tight ends and running backs from the conversation, the picture becomes very clear. Collins led the wide receivers with 5 catches for 68 yards. Which receiver came in second, you ask? Robert Woods with 1 catch for 6 yards.

Bring on the receivers!

Don't miss the video above for the full discussion about Diggs, the Texans' new-look offense, and how they are being perceived by the media.

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