MAKING A DEAL

Astros acquire catcher Martin Maldonado from Angels

Martin Maldonado (center) will be joining the Astros after facing them his entire career. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Astros have made a trade, however, it's not for a reliever. Instead, Houston has sent a pitching prospect to the Angels to get a catcher. 

On Thursday the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels struck a deal which sent pitching prospect Patrick Sandoval and cash to Los Angeles with catcher Martin Maldonado going to Houston. 

Maldonado is a veteran in the league who won a Gold Glove in the 2017 season with the Angels. He will be a rental for the Astros, becoming a free agent after the 2018 season. Maldonado has started 77 games for the Angels this year, during which he has continued to provide strength behind the plate like he did in his award-winning year last season. 

Martin gives the Astros some strength and experience behind the plate that they have needed since Brian McCann went down with his knee injury. With McCann's return still uncertain, it's a good move for the Astros to add some depth at the position, allowing them to switch out Max Stassi and Maldonado as needed instead of relying on Tim Federowicz. 

Looking at Maldonado's performance this year; he's currently leading the AL in putouts like he did last season, second in the AL in Caught Stealing percentage at 44.4%, and has the lowest passed balls at just 10. His best value is behind the plate, not necessarily as a hitter; he's hitting .223 on the season with just five home runs and 32 RBIs. 

The prospect the Astros gave up, Patrick Sandoval, has been in Houston's system since being drafted in the eleventh round of the 2015 draft. Sandoval has had a good year in 2018 in the minors, currently sitting with a 9-1 record and 2.56 ERA in 19 games, 13 of which were starts. He's pitched 88 innings over those 19 games, during which he's given up 25 earned runs while striking out 97 and holding opponents to a .213 average. 

Although not the highest prospect in the Astros' system, time will tell if it was worth giving up Sandoval for a few months of Maldonado's strength behind the plate. It's clear the Astros front office is determined to take advantage of their championship window and adding Maldonado could be a piece they need this offseason. 

Stats acquired from baseball-reference.com and milb.com

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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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