WHEELING AND DEALING

Here’s how Astros GM officially put MLB on notice

More moves could be coming. Photo via: MLB.com.

With the MLB trade deadline ticking toward 3 p.m. Friday, the Astros already have bolstered their bullpen with the acquisitions of Kendall Graveman from the Mariners and Yimi Garcia from the Marlins. Just as important, the Astros gave up very little in exchange. We liked Abraham Toro, but he was expendable and possibly destined to Sugar Land with the return of Alex Bregman and Aledmys Diaz.

So far it looks like Astros G.M. James Click's speed dial is stuck on "M." Is there anybody that Click can steal from the Mets roster? Click has indicated that the Astros aren't done dealing.

Think … Monday night, Graveman is the winning pitcher against the Astros. Tuesday afternoon, he's wearing an Astros uniform. And Mariners players are furious with management for trading Graveman to the team they're chasing for a post-season spot, where the Mariners haven't been in two decades. It's one thing to grab one of your rival's best pitchers, it's a whole other thing to rock your rival's clubhouse in the process. James Click, you sorcerer.

It says something that Graveman and Garcia, closers for their previous teams, will be set-up relievers for the Astros. This is what serious World Series contenders do, use the trade deadline to patch up holes for the stretch run. If Graveman and Garcia deliver, they'll turn the Astros pen, their black hole this season, into a team strength.

Isn't it fun that the Astros will take chances and do what's necessary to win, even if it means crossing the MLB's luxury tax threshold? Hey, it's not like our other two major sports teams are giving us much to cheer about. Is it possible for a city to fire an NFL owner?

With the trade deadline looming, and the Astros' No. 1 need addressed, fans have turned into Oliver from the Broadway play:

"Please sir, I want some more."

Though the Astros are sitting with a 6-game lead over the A's in the American League West, and the lineup is scoring runs like a video game set on "easy," there is room to get stronger. There's a fire sale on bullpen closers, including Cubs super reliever Craig Kimbrel. Also on the market: Tanner Scott (Orioles), Daniel Bard (Rockies), Richard Rodriguez (Pirates), and Ian Kennedy (Rangers).

The Astros are cruising in first place. Driver James Click is making a fuel stop and filling up with premium.

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Here's why the Texans will make the playoffs under Lovie Smith

1. The Houston Texans had a mentally tough practice Saturday. The team has worked a lot in pads and Lovie Smith noted the days starting to build up on them during this practice. The head coach said this is a good practice because it is like the fourth quarter of the games the team will end up playing.

2. Davis Mills threw one of the best passes he has thrown all camp on Saturday. In a red zone drill, he dropped back and whipped a pass between two defenders into the tightest window he has had all camp. Nico Collins hauled in the threaded pass for a score.

3. A few reps later Davis Mills struck again. With traffic from linebackers and defensive backs, he found Chris Conley for a score. It wasn’t as tight of a window as the first one, but Mills snapped it off nonetheless.

4. Pharaoh Brown made something hard look very easy on Saturday. With Mills rolling out and tossing the ball to Brown in the back corner Brown hauled in a one-handed catch and had both feet down. Touchdown. Brown then acted like it was no big deal.

5. Pharaoh Brown has had a wonderful camp. Lovie Smith named him the starting tight end. The thing that really jumped out to me today is he makes his work look easy. He isn’t straining to excel in his opportunities. The good ones always make it look easy and it has looked easy for Brown so far.

6. Rookie linebacker Christian Harris is on the shelf for a few days. He joins fellow rookie Kenyon Green as players who are injured. Max Scharping played left guard with Green down. Wide receiver Phillip Dorset practiced while veteran wideout Chester Rodgers did not.

7. Roy Lopez flashed again today. While Friday was about the rushing attack and Lopez made his presence felt at defensive tackle, he got into the pass rush Saturday. Lopez would have had a bone-crushing sack in a live rep.

8. Ross Blacklock hasn’t been consistent. A statement like that is good and evil. There are some plays where Blacklock looks like he isn’t a factor. I watched one today. A play later he had what would have been a sack on the play. He’s a player to watch in the preseason games closely.

9. Don’t expect to see Derek Stingley in the preseason opener next Saturday. Lovie Smith wouldn’t commit to the rookie cornerback playing in the preseason. Smith did say Stingley is on track to play week one in the regular season.

10. Brevin Jordan has had a nice camp and should be an important piece for the team. Jordan had a bad drop in 7-on-7 drills that he was beating himself up over for a few minutes. That was out of the norm. He’s been used a lot and will be on the field a bit it seems for the Texans.

11. Brevin Jordan also rattled off a few contenders for the quote of the day. He exclaimed he had taken care of himself this offseason and he finally had abs. He also revealed he’s quite the fisherman and once caught a 125-pound tuna. When asked what he did with the tuna Jordan laughed and said “RIP tuna!”

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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