Time for a move?

Fred Faour: As strange as it sounds, Texans trading Jadeveon Clowney makes sense in a lot of ways

Fred Faour: As strange as it sounds, Texans trading Jadeveon Clowney makes sense in a lot of ways
Jadeveon Clowney is having a big year. Should the Texans consider moving him? Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

It might seem silly on the surface to suggest trading your best defensive player. But now might be the time for the Texans to cash in on a deal for Jadeveon Clowney -- before he cashes in himself.

Clowney has been one of the lone bright spots for the Texans in an otherwise dismal year. He has been a force all year, with a career-high nine sacks and is second in the league in tackles for loss. His value has never been higher.

He has one year left on a contract that will pay him over $13 million next year and will likely become the highest paid defensive player in the league when he gets his new deal. But if you are the Texans, does it make sense to pay him that much when you already have significant money tied up in J.J. Watt? Presumably, Watt will return healthy next season, although he may never be what he was. The defense will also get Whitney Mercilus back. Should there be a coaching change, it’s possible you would have three players all making huge money as pass rushers. Does that make fiscal sense?

The Texans have significant holes on the offensive line and secondary and will have to hit the reset button on several veteran players on defense. They have no early picks in this year’s draft and will have to commit money through free agency. While they have solid salary cap room, a Clowney trade could give them even more flexibility.

The pros and cons

The other key reasons to do it:

  1. Clowney may never be any better than he is right now, and you will have to commit significant dollars to keep him.

  2. As good as he has been, it has not helped. The team and the defense have been dreadful.

  3. Another team might offer a No. 1 pick to replace the one the Texans traded, and possibly a player as well who can help the OL or secondary.

  4. The Texans have always been good at finding D Linemen and linebackers. While you won’t get the same quality, you can mitigate his loss.

  5. He is the one player on the roster with the contract status and value to get back a significant return.

There are reasons not to move Clowney as well:

  1. There is no guarantee Watt will ever be healthy again, much less the dominant force he was before.

  2. Clowney is a rare talent and with more help he could get even better.

  3. You simply don’t trade your best players in the NFL. Deals like this are rare, although we have seen a lot more lately. 

In the end, however, the potential return outweighs those factors. Obviously, you would have to get a first round pick, another pick and a plug and play starter at a position of need, just to get the conversation started. Some might suggest dealing Watt instead, but after missing most of the last two seasons, he would have little trade value, and his onerous contract makes moving him almost impossible.

As silly as it sounds, the Texans best move might be to move on from their best defensive player and trade Clowney.

Johnny’s back?

In case you missed it, Johnny Manziel has been cleared to play football in the CFL and sign a contract. Details in my SportsMap story here.

Some fun stuff

If you like some non-sportsy things, check out my update on Houstonsportsandstuff.com. Making fun of a perceived slight, some TV news, gambling updates and more. And follow me on Twitter @fredfaour

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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