The Pallilog

Astros increase their wow factor by dealing for Greinke

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

Zack Greinke, Houston Astro. Zack Greinke, Houston Astro! Imagine that the Texans had a General Manager capable of Jeff Luhnow's work quality. Or, just imagine that the Texans had a General Manager.

A la the Justin Verlander acquisition two years ago, Luhnow again struck like a cobra just before the trade deadline, dealing for the Diamondbacks' ace to give the Astros a Verlander-Gerrit Cole-Greinke 1-2-3 starting pitching punch that is unmatched in the Major Leagues. Add in Wade Miley and it's the best 1-2-3-4 punch.

The rest of the American League postseason contenders aren't going to cancel the rest of their seasons. Any of them can beat the Astros in a three out of five or four out of seven playoff series. It's simply how baseball works. But man has those other contenders' task gotten tougher.

The 1971 Orioles had four 20 game winners. And lost the World Series. For years the Atlanta Braves had a future Hall of Fame starting pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. They won one World Series, and over their last seven seasons together, reached only one other World Series, and got swept in it. The 2010 Phillies had Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, then traded for Roy Oswalt from the Astros. They lost the National League Championship Series. The next year they added another stud in Cliff Lee, won 102 games, and lost in the Division Series.

Postseason baseball results aren't random but chance plays a role and the truly better team doesn't always win a series. The better team within a series wins a series. The job of a General Manager is to plausibly build a team with the best chance of competing to win it all. Luhnow has done that. Again.

Greinke is signed for two more seasons. So is Verlander. What about free agents-to be Cole and Miley? I wouldn't fret about them until after the season. But know that keeping both would have the Astros 2020 payroll ballooning toward 250 million dollars. Incredible.

When Jim Crane and his partners bought the Astros and gutted the payroll to about 25 mil, Crane said when the time was right the Astros would carry a payroll somewhere from fifth to tenth among the 30 franchises. He couldn't have walked the walk any straighter in support of the talk he talked. The Astros were top 10 in payroll last year, are again this year, and next season could wind up with the biggest payroll in all of Major League Baseball. Incredible.

The Astros acquired Greinke for his pitching talent, but every little positive piece makes for a better puzzle. Greinke is a five time Gold Glove winner. He's an excellent hitting pitcher. Good enough that if the Astros indeed reach their second World Series in three years it will make sense to slot Greinke to start in the National League park. So if the Astros meet the Dodgers with L.A. having homefield advantage, Greinke should go in game two and then in a possible game six. If the Astros have homefield, Greinke should go in game three, which then means the start in a decisive game seven.

Texans should make moves

Of course the Texans should be inquiring about a trade for holdout Washington left tackle Trent Williams. Until proven otherwise the Texans' offensive line still stinks. It does not excite that first round draft pick Tytus Howard seems to be slotted at left guard. That means incumbent Julie'n Davenport (regularly overmatched last season) or Matt Kalil (played zero football last season) at left tackle. Williams has his own question marks (two substance abuse suspensions, six games missed to injury in 2017, three in 2018) but the 31 year old would be a serious talent upgrade. If Washington decides its Williams impasse is unsalvageable, the Texans should negotiate from an offer of a third round pick for him. The Texans have salary cap space galore to take on Williams's roughly 11 million dollar contract for 2019. Next year he's due 12.75 million. Williams wants a new contract with a lot more guaranteed money. The Texans shouldn't go there. Watch the Patriots trade for him.

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has asked for a trade. He's evidently upset the Chargers have offered him only 10 million dollars per year. Gordon is two years younger and certainly better than Lamar Miller. Both are in the final years of contracts. If you'd be willing to lavish millions upon Gordon, and willing to deal Miller and a 2nd round pick for him the Chargers would have to at least listen.

I'm sure the Texans' GM is kicking the tires on this stuff. Well…

Buzzer Beaters

1. In Astros' history, at the time of the deal the Randy Johnson trade still had the biggest WOW! factor. 2. It's still quite a WOW! to drop the Rockets getting Russell Westbrook to number two on the July Houston sports WOW-O-METER. 3. Greatest players ever traded (greatness at time traded): Bronze-Alex Rodriguez Silver-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Gold-Wayne Gretzky

Houston Astros/Facebook

The Astros had a bad 4-6 road trip and looked forward to getting home to Minute Maid Park where they have been dominant this season. The pitiful Detroit Tigers arrived in Houston with a record since the All Star Break of nine wins and 27 losses. They literally do not have one non-pitcher who would make a healthy Astros' roster. That includes the way over the hill sure fire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Splitting four games at home with the Tigers would have been a fail. The Astros did not fail, though "only" taking three out of four seems a little disappointing. The S.S. Astros Good Ship Lollipop has sprung a couple of leaks. Neither that can't be plugged with good health, but the Astros have two notable health issues.

Carlos Correa's next endorsement deal should be for peanut brittle, emphasis not on the peanut. Some guys just have a propensity toward getting injured. Unfortunately the Correa resume grows that he is one of those guys. That back problems have resurfaced is troubling, to no one more so than Correa himself. It's clear the guy loves the game and is spectacularly talented, but durability is one component of greatness and to this point Correa simply has not demonstrated durability. If he can't produce a fully healthy bigtime season or two in the next year or two, any visions of a Manny Machado-like 10 year 300 million dollar contract will be up in smoke. Still, Correa turns only 25 years old next month so there's time to prove sturdiness, but more sand has seeped through the hourglass. For the 2019 Astros the dropdown is huge from Correa at shortstop to either Miles Straw or Aledmys Diaz being in the lineup. As for 2020, please tell anyone saying the Astros should trade Correa to be quiet.

The loss of Ryan Pressly for most if not all of the rest of the regular season is a big blow to the bullpen. Of even bigger concern is whether he can get back and get sharp to start the postseason.

This doesn't mean the ship is sinking. The Astros enter the weekend just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, and the Astros own the tiebreaker (having won the season series 4-3). They are three back of the Dodgers for best in MLB, the Astros have a three game lead in the tiebreaker with LA (intradivision record). The Yankees play at the Dodgers this weekend so if you're a glass half full person: a Dodger or Yankee loss is guaranteed three days in a row! If you're glass half empty: a Dodger or Yankee win is guaranteed three days in a row!

NFL on the horizon

A little over 2 weeks until the Texans begin their 18th season of play in the National Football League. We've all heard the saying, the 18th time is the charm. So is this the season the Texans are finally a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not. The Texans do not look like a notably improved football team. On paper their schedule is clearly more difficult than last season's. Within the AFC the Chiefs clearly have more overall talent and are better coached. The Patriots still exist. One of these years Tom Brady really will slip. Maybe at age 42 this is the season.

If Jadeveon Clowney opts to sit out, or is traded, anyone thinking he won't be missed, is wrong. Clowney is not a superstar but he's really good. The Texans will be easier to run on without him. And while not an elite pass rusher, Clowney has to be accounted for. Anyone thinking, ah, he's hurt all the time anyway…wrong again. Clowney missed one game last season, and the season before that he played in every game.

If you want a couple of reasons for plausible optimism, here you go. Coming off of last season Deshaun Watson does not rate as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He could well vault into that echelon this season. The Texans' offensive line remains something between a question mark and a glaring weakness, but really, can it be worse than it was the last couple of seasons? DeAndre Hopkins is about as good as it gets today at wide receiver, the same for J.J. Watt at defensive end though the clock is ticking down on his prime.

The Texans probably begin their season by losing at New Orleans. On the other hand the Buccaneers started their 5-11 2018 season by beating the 13-3 to be Saints in New Orleans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Connor McGregor pitches some "number 12" brand of whisky. As a human being he seems much more a piece of number two. 2. Two peas in a pitching pod: Justin Verlander 15-5, 2.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole 15-5, 2.75 ERA, 238 strikeouts. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


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