Series Preview

Astros-Diamondbacks series breakdown: Greinke returns to Arizona

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PROBABLE STARTERS

Tues. Aug 4: Cristian Javier (0-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 4.09)

Wed. Aug 5: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 5.40) vs. Robbie Ray (0-2, 8.64)

Thurs. Aug 6: Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00) vs. Zac Gallen (0-0, 2.70)

STORYLINES

  • Is Cristian Javier for real? Javier won Astros minor league pitcher of the year in 2019, and followed his award winning season with an award winning performance in his first career start. Javier filled in masterfully for the injured Justin Verlander, matching Dodgers phenom Dustin May tit-for-tat. The Astros came out on the losing end of that game, but Javier left a great first impression.
  • Who can step up in the bullpen? The bullpen will be a story all season long. Blake Taylor has solidified himself as a reliable option, but can anybody even name a reliable second option? Take note of this hypothetical pitching staff:

Gerrit Cole

Justin Verlander

Wade Miley

Colin McHugh

Jose Urquidy

Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Cionel Perez

All of those arms were available to the Astros last season. Whether it be free agency departure, legitimate baseball-related injury, or COVID-related reasons, none of the above are currently available to the Astros. Keep in mind, those are 13 pitchers listed, which is what the Astros would usually carry in a normal season. It is no longer the Astros staff of yesteryear.

  • Can the Astros bats get going? The Astros offensive woes are overstated, as the team is still top 10 in MLB in offensive statistics like OPS, AVG, and Runs Scored, but the production hasn't come from the likes of Springer, Bregman, and Altuve for the most part.
  • Greinke's return to Arizona. Chase Field will certainly be a raucous environment, as -- oops. The stadium will be silent, but the cardboard cutouts could get rowdy as Zack Greinke makes his return to Arizona, where he led the Diamondbacks pitching staff for three-and-a-half years. It'll have been 371 days since the Astros acquired Greinke when he toes the rubber on Thursday. My, does it feel like 3,071 days ago.

PREDICTIONS

It's crazy to say that a series 10 games into the season is make-or-break, but the Diamondbacks are only 3-7, and a losing series would be a crushing blow for a team that came into the 2020 season with high expectations. Expect the Diamondbacks to come out energized and ready to go. Madison Bumgarner saves his best performances for big moments, Robbie Ray is a talented pitcher that's gotten off to a rough start, and Zac Gallen has been one of baseball's breakout stars over the last year. The Astros bats will have their hands full to say the least. Combine that with the fact that Arizona's offense that's due to break out in a big way gets to face an injured and overtaxed Astros pitching staff, and the deck is stacked against Houston. Arizona will take two of three.

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The Texans have a big decision to make. Composite image by Jack Brame

The last few weeks have brought us some very interesting episodes of "As Kirby Turns." Cal McNair has admitted he hasn't spoken with Deshaun Watson and has also doubled down on his affinity for Jack Easterby by saying he's staying around. The franchise's only member of their Ring of Honor, Andre Johnson, came completely out of character by tweeting his support for Watson to "stand his ground" in what most assume is his desire to play elsewhere. Newly hired general manager Nick Caserio has the hardest job in the NFL because he's basically a one leg man in a bleep kicking contest. National and local media are all floating rumors and opinions about Watson's status with the team. Meanwhile, Watson himself has been cryptic and hasn't come out and said one thing either way about his status with the team.

My opinion is that he won't be traded and this is his way of using the leverage he has to get some things done his way to ensure more of his career won't be wasted. Once they hire a head coach he approves of and they talk, he'll be back in the fold and blow things over by saying he never demanded a trade and was only upset about some things due to miscommunication. Blah blah blah. However, where there's smoke, there must be fire. I'll examine some pros and cons to a potential trade of Watson.

Bad news first. This franchise has waited its entire existence for a franchise quarterback like Watson. Finally getting one and having to deal him amidst the bumbling owner and charlatan right-hand man would be a big blow to overcome. This coming year is shaping up to be difficult as it is, but doing so with Watson wearing a different jersey could prove to be a near fatal blow. It would take an additional year or so to recover. The only way this timeline is expedited, is if they get a quarterback back in the trade or with one of the draft picks that they feel can be the man moving forward.

The bright side. Watson is this team's most attractive asset as it looks to rebuild. There are teams in the top five of this year's draft who need quarterbacks, and a couple of them have multiple first round picks. The Jets, #2 and #23 overall in the first round this draft, are the most intriguing destination because they may be bad next season with Watson if you get that pick in the trade as well. Throw in Sam Darnold, who's still young and salvageable, and this could be a hard reset that may not take as long. The Dolphins, #3 and #18 overall this draft, also have a lot to offer. Rumor has it Watson would like to go to Miami in a deal that includes Tua Tagovailoa, who was a guy Caserio liked when entering the draft. Again, another potential hard reset that may not take long if either young quarterback pans out. You could also trade back from those top slots to acquire more picks to help fill some of the many holes you have.

I reiterate, I do not believe Watson will be traded. I'm not even sure his no trade clause is applicable since he's still under his rookie contract and his extension hasn't kicked in yet. The new CBA rules call for stiffer penalties for players who refuse to report, so a holdout is highly unlikely. I'll be glad when they hire a coach Watson likes, and we get the happy family press conference introducing him, so this soap opera can move on to its next episode.

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