Point Blank

Astros Fans: Who is on your holiday wish list?

Would Nelson Cruz be a fit for the Astros? Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Now that baseball's winter meetings are over and most available free agents and trade targets are still out there, who would you most like to see join your favorite baseball team, Houston? What position group do you want Jeff Luhnow and his staff to target as the top priority? It doesn't look like Manny Machado or Brice Harper are going to be headed to H-town but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of good options that could help upgrade the roster and improve the team. The rumors have been flying about the Astros and names like Nelson Cruz and Michael Brantley in free agency and JT Realmuto and Jose Abreau via a trade. So I ask you, what player or players to you have on the top of your wish list? What position are you hoping they address first?

The choices are many and the possibilities endless, but if you had your choice, which direction to you want Jeff Luhnow and his staff to go first? Are there names you have in your cross hairs that you would give anything to see in the blue, orange and rainbow trim? I personally hope they utilize free agency to address a corner outfielder and a DH/1B type player and look for at least one starting pitcher via a trade. Obviously the price has to be right when you go out and sign players on the open market, but most players seem to want to play in Houston these days and have a chance to win a ring, so that can help find the right price to lure a few quality bats. As for a trade, there are a lot of big named, experienced and high quality, starting pitchers being dangled out there. Depending on how much of thier contract and how many years you are willing to absorb and how many decent prospects you are willing to include, you may be able to land one without giving up Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker.

The names at the top of my list for Houston in free agency are Brantley and Cruz. Brantley is a veteran, athletic outfielder who can fit right in defensively with his glove and arm, while adding left handed pop to any space in the lineup that A.J. Hinch decides to hit him in. He hit .309 last season with 17 HRs and 76 RBIs in 143 games and is a lifetime .295 hitter in 10 seasons with the Indians. Cruz has always seemed to be an Astros killer, whether he was with the Rangers, Orioles or Mariners. He hit 37 bombs and knocked in 97 while hitting .256 in Seattle last season and has hit at least 37 long balls and driven in at least 93 runs in each of the last five seasons. Brantley is 31 years old and in the prime of his career, while Cruz is 38 and still playing at a high level in the twilight of his career. Both have playoff experience and both would like to play with a contender that gives them a chance at winning a ring. If the price is right, both would be a great fit in Houston next year.

If you are hoping for a trade it really comes down to how many above average prospects you are willing to include? Are you throwing in a player or two off your major league roster? Are you willing to take on multiple years of big salary as part of the deal? If the answer to those questions are yes, then you may be able to get a big name that can step in and upgrade your team all while hanging on to the two biggest names in your farm system, Tucker and Whitley.

Both of those guys are said to be untouchable by Luhnow and a deal breaker with any team they may engage in trade talks with. They have been rumored to have had discussions with the White Sox centering around Jose Abreau, the Marlins in a package for catcher JT Realmuto as well as talks involving big named starting pithers like Zach Greinke and Madison Bumgarner.

I fully expect that these rumors and talks will intensify as we get closer to the end of the calendar year, with teams like Cleveland hoping to move Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer and the Mets considering relocating Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. I would love to see the 'Stros make a move for a front line starter that can help fill the void left by Charlie Morton and Dallas Kuechel moving on, as well as better prepare for the possibility that one if not both Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole could be leaving via free agency after this season. I would take a close look at Greinke because Arizona is in fire sale mode and looking to unload big contracts. I would love to have Kluber but fear the asking price is astronomical. OK, enough from me, who would you like to see the team go get in free agency and via a trade?

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome