Falcon Points

Astros moves set them up for contention this year and beyond

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros made the biggest splash at the trade deadline, acquiring another legitimate ace starter in Zack Greinke. The move makes them the clear favorites to come out of the American League, but also set them up for the future. In addition, they made two other deals to bolster a roster that is now healthy and already loaded. A look at what the moves mean:

Loaded for the stretch in 2019

The Astros might have the best rotation in baseball. They certainly will for the playoffs, when the rotation shortens to three or four pitchers. This is how they will stack up:

Justin Verlander, 14-4, 2.73 ERA

Gerrit Cole 12-5, 2.94

Zack Greinke, 10-4, 2.90

Wade Miley, 9-4, 3.06

Verlander (1), Cole (4) and Miley (6) are all top six in ERA in the American League. Greinke would rank third if he put up the same numbers in the AL. All that means the Astros now have four of the top seven pitchers in the entire American League.

Oh, and with everyone healthy? The lineup is a monster. George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel...That's seven deep of All-Star caliber players.

Throw in a bullpen that when healthy is terrific in the eighth and ninth innings, and there simply is not a better day-in, day-out team in baseball.

The "other" guys

The Astros also re-acquired Martin Maldonado to beef up the catching. They now have two legitimate major league catchers on the roster. Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini add some pitching depth. Biagini adds some more help to the pen, while Sanchez is an intriguing project. At one time, he looked like one of the best young pitchers in baseball. But he has struggled mightily the past few seasons, including this year. But if the Astros can get him right, he could become a nice longterm piece in the rotation, or at least help in the pen. If not? The price was low. It is a low risk, high reward move.

Oh, the future...

The Greinke move also acts as insurance in case Cole leaves in free agency. Of the key players, only Cole and Miley are not under team control next season. So the Astros will be serious contenders in 2020, too. Even if they lose Cole, they will have a top three in the rotation of Verlander/Greinke/Lance McCullers. And odds are they bring at least one of Cole and Miley back. If not? Maybe they fix Sanchez. Maybe Forrest Whitley is finally ready. If they do bring them both back? Next year's rotation will be even better. That's a scary thought. And the everyday lineup will remain virtually the same. If the Astros need to clear some money, they can move Josh Reddick and his $13 million per year if Kyle Tucker is ready. And let's not dismiss the Verlander factor. His acquisition made it cool to be an Astro. Greinke chose to be in Houston and turned down the Yankees. Players want to be in Houston now.

And let's also give the Astros credit for the off-season signings of Brantley and Miley. They were low-risk, manageable contracts that have more than paid off. While Miley will command more money in the off-season, Brantley is back in 2020 at a reasonable number. This team is going to be good for a long time.

The dearly departed

The Astros did give up some assets. But the reality is, trades are supposed to benefit both teams. It also should benefit the players. The Tony Kemp for Maldonado deal helped the Astros and the Cubs. Maldonado was a luxury in Chicago; Kemp had already been designated for assignment. Both should benefit their new teams. As for the Toronto trade, Derek Fisher never quite worked out in Houston and was blocked by Myles Straw and Tucker. Maybe he develops, and at least he gets a chance. As for the Greinke trade? Seth Beer may become a good player. But will he better than Alvarez? J.B. Buskakas is highly regarded but has yet to develop. Corbin Martin just had Tommy John surgery. So who knows? The Astros got a legitimate ace. Even if those players become solid major leaguers, it was worth it.

The bottom line

For the first time, Houston has one of the best run organizations in all of sports. The Rockets try and keep taking chances and maybe it will work out. The Texans? Wasting the careers of DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson by failing to help them. The Astros don't do everything right, but when they make a mistake they correct it. They make bold, thoughtful moves. Will they win another World Series? Maybe. Win or lose, however, they make the right decisions.

And Houston fan should be happy for it.

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How about the Texans land Sean Payton and keep their 1st round picks this year? Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton caught the attention of a lot of Houston Texans fans on Monday with comments he made on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.

Payton said he is absolutely considering the Texans’ gig citing the team’s draft capital, the AFC South and casual relationships with owner Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio as reasons for it, which cast a different light on the Houston job.

Whether Payton and the Texans ultimately wind up together, only time will tell, but if both sides were to agree that they are the right fit for each other, what would it take to land Payton in Houston?

Payton’s situation is a bit unique in that the Saints still hold his contractual rights because he signed a five-year extension with the team in 2019 before he retired in 2022. In order for the Texans, or any other team, to land Payton, they will likely have to give up a significant draft choice. Payton alluded to it during his conversation on The Herd.

New Orleans is likely looking for a mid-to-late first-round pick. A hefty price to pay in the NFL, but is there a way for the Texans to get a trade to work if they were to become convinced he is the right man for the job?

Like Payton said, Houston has put itself in a position where it owns a lot of draft picks, and a good portion of them come from the Cleveland Browns courtesy of the Deshaun Watson deal.

For 2023, the Texans have two first-round picks — the No. 2 overall pick and No. 12 from Cleveland. In 2024, Houston has two first-round picks as well, its own and that of the Cleveland Browns.

Looking at other teams across the league that are also reportedly interested in Payton, the Texans clearly have the edge over them. The Denver Broncos have only one first-round draft pick in this year’s draft, and it comes from the San Francisco 49ers, meaning it will be a late draft pick.

The Arizona Cardinals have the third overall pick in 2023. It's their only first-round draft pick this season. It would not make sense for them to part ways with that pick. The Carolina Panthers have the ninth overall pick in the 2023 draft. Similar to Arizona, it's their only pick in the first round and it would not make sense for them to part ways with it for Payton.

The Los Angeles Chargers are an intriguing team following the collapse in the Wild Card round last weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

LA has the 21st overall pick in the 2023 draft. With Justin Herbert and various weapons across both sides of the ball, the Chargers are one team that could afford to trade its first-round pick in exchange for a head coach that could take them over the top. At the moment, it does seem like Brandon Staley will stay for at least one more season.

Lastly, come the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Mike McCarthy’s seat cooled off tremendously following the team’s stellar performance against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card, but an abysmal performance against San Francisco this weekend could heat it up in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys will have a late first-round draft pick regardless of how they perform against the 49ers. No price will be too big to pay for Jerry Jones if he believes Payton is the final piece to a championship puzzle.

When it comes down to the Texans, outside of the Chargers and Cowboys, whom both appear to be long shots for Payton, there is no incentive to trade a first-round pick this year for Payton if both sides agree to work together.

For a team that has holes across various positions, trading away the No. 12 pick is not a wise move, even if it does land the most qualified candidate on the market. Houston could offer next year’s Cleveland first-round pick, which with a full year of Watson will likely be a later first-round pick.

Could adding a fourth-round pick this season on top of next year’s first be enough for the Saints? The thing about this scenario, which favors the Texans, is that in the event both sides agree they are the right fit for each other, there is not really much leverage New Orleans can use to increase the price.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis wouldn’t send Payton, the 15-year leader of the organization, to a team he does not want to coach for just because they are offering a greater draft pick, or a first-round selection this year.

At the end of the day, it comes down to Payton and what he wants. If Houston is his landing spot, then there is a good chance the Texans could get him for a lesser price than this year’s 12th overall pick.

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