Who will be the next Astro in line for a long term deal as the team tries to lock up their core players?

Astros: You get an extension, and you get an extension!

Gerrit Cole. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros are bucking the long-standing trend in Major League Baseball of waiting to pay players big money contracts until after they lose the leverage of team control, and paying players before they have to. In doing so, they have made several of their players very happy and in the process forced other teams to re-evaluate their internal processes and follow suit in order to stay competitive and in good favor with players and agents.

For example, they had Alex Bregman under team control for several years and were only on the hook for a minimal raise of around $41,500 after arbitration, making his contract for 2019 a paltry $640,500. To put that in perspective, the league minimum is $555,000. That's quite a bargain for a player that finished in the top 5 of American League MVP voting, pounded out 31 home runs, 51 doubles, 103 RBI and .926 OPS.

The system is obviously broken and needs to be a major issue to be negotiated in the next collective bargaining agreement, which expires after the 2021 season. The Astros were smart enough and once again ahead of the curve in setting a trend of rewarding players that deserve and have earned a salary competitive with the better players at their given position, regardless of how many years of team control they have remaining.

They took care of Bregman with a 6 year, $100 million dollar deal and extended Ace Justin Verlander and bullpen standout, Ryan Pressly, as well. The message was sent and heard loud and clear around MLB, if you want to be in the good graces of players and agents both in free agency and in the draft, then you need to throw the rules of the past out the window and take care of the players who have earned a competitive raise based on a trend of outplaying their current deal. So, with 3 key contributors to the teams' recent success joining Jose Altuve as players that are wrapped up for the foreseeable future, the question now becomes, who's next?

Carlos Correa and George Springer are definitely worthy candidates to be next in line, as both have lived up to the billing they got from the time the Astros drafted them. As both players took the baseball world by storm at every stop during their meteoric rise through the minor leagues, it was only a matter of time before the arrived on the big league scene.

Once donning an Astros uniform they continued to thrive as they were both key contributors in bringing Houston its first World Series title. Springer was the MVP of the fall classic, while Correa had key hits throughout the historic run through the postseason. The problem is Correa has been plagued by injuries over the last few years and that can give the organization cause for concern in giving him a long term deal. I believe the team will see how he plays this season and if he is able to play a full schedule and avoid another serious medical set back, Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane will explore wrapping him up long term.

As for Springer, he has been the victim of the frugal former owner of the team, Drayton McClain as well as his front office trained to follow his lead. They held him back to get extra years of team control with no intention of extending him at fair market value. He definitely outplayed his contract in multiple years but it wasn't until Crane bought the team and hired Luhnow that the franchise attempted to right the wrongs of the past and take care of George. He is currently in the middle of a 2 year, $24 million dollar deal and with him being arbitration eligible in 2020, they have a little time before they need to try and lock him into a long term contract. That leaves one big-time player that needs to be taken care of between now and the end of the 2019 season if at all possible.

Gerrit Cole is set to be a free agent and hit the open market at the end of this season. He is coming off arguably the best season of his career setting a career high in strikeouts with 276, while posting a 15-5 record with a 2.88 ERA. The k's and winning percentage were career bests and his ERA was second to the 2015 campaign when he notched a 2.60 with the Pirates.

He is a hard-throwing, inning eating, workhorse that has been dominant ever since he joined the Astros in a trade prior to the 2018 season. At only 28 years old he seems poised and ready to lead a teams' rotation for years to come. He is a quiet guy who has really fit right in with the Astros clubhouse and has really flourished under the watchful eye of pitching coach Brett Strom as well as Verlander, who has been in his shoes and can speak from experience when giving him advice and guidance.

He is on the record in stating how much he has enjoyed the city of Houston, his teammates and the winning environment of the organization and that it would be "nice" to reach an agreement to stay in the blue and orange going forward. So far the team has yet to reach out to Cole's agent, Scott Boras who has a reputation of being a tough negotiator and very hard to please. With that said and with Verlander's signing sending a message to Cole's camp, if the team agrees with me that he deserves a similar type deal and the courtesy of a meeting to get the ball rolling and explore the particulars of a new deal, there is no time like the present.

If they wait, they run the risk of Cole hitting the open market and watching his price tag sail through the roof while also ruffling the feathers of both player and agent who undoubtedly feel like if Verlander was worthy of an extension, they should be too. The precedence has been set, the time is right, the only remaining question is, will the price be right and can they get it done sometime this season? I'm looking at you Jeff Luhnow, there's only one way to find out and the clock is ticking

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Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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