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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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