Here's why today will be the battle for Houston sports fans' souls

Winds of change? Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange

"These are the times that try men's souls."

Thomas Paine wrote those words in the winter of 1776 to spur on Continental Army patriots fighting for freedom against the British during the Revolutionary War.

Update: today is a day that tries Houston sports fans' souls.

George Springer, the possibly soon-to-be former Houston Astro is rated that No. 1 free agent on the market. Who wouldn't want a slugging centerfielder, a fan favorite, repeat All-Star and solid fielder who seems to get better each year and is still only 31? Springer reportedly doesn't want to return to the Astros. If so, there are plenty of teams willing and ready to cut Springer a nine-figure, long-term deal, even in this COVID penny-pinching season. George Chelston Springer III, even his name reeks of New England, grew up a Red Sox fan in Connecticut. If you close your eyes, you can see a Springer dinger sailing over the Green Monster. The Mets have a new owner, a bulging bank account and a spot in the outfield. Also in the running: the Phillies, Braves and Yankees. And don't think that new Tigers manager A.J. Hinch wouldn't love to stick it to his former employer and lure Springer to Detroit.

Meanwhile, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are free agents, too. While Brantley might be convinced to stay in Houston, Reddick's a goner, and the Astros conceivably could lose their entire outfield. Not good.

Will the Texans make a deal at the deadline?

Today is the NFL's trade deadline, and while word from Kirby says no trades are likely, how would the Texans respond if a team offers a second-round pick for local hero J.J. Watt? Or a third-rounder for Whitney Mercilus? Or anything for anybody on the Texans' roster. The Texans are DOA and the cupboard, at least the top shelf, is bare for draft picks next year.

Losing Watt would be a heartbreaker for Texans' fans. He isn't just on the Mount Rushmore of beloved Houston athletes … Watt sits on top of the mountain. Houston fans might understand trading Watt to a Super Bowl contender, just so he has a chance for a ring. But that would be a distant second to watching Watt hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in a Texans' uniform. There's a lot of tread on Watt's tires, but he's still only 31. One can hope.

Rockets rumor mill

The Houston Rockets, nothing new, are in a state of flux. The Rockets have a new coach, first-time Stephen Silas, a new general manager, first-timer Rafael Stone, and new executive vice-president of basketball operations, first-timer Eli Witus. Owner Tilman Fertitta now has his guys in place. Let's just say that Fertitta is hands-on.

A few years ago, I sat in the lobby of a Hilton Garden Inn in Tyler and had an interesting conversation with Fertitta. His son Blake was playing for Post Oak in a Little League tournament. I was in the West U rooting section for a different division tourney.

Post Oak played Pearland and Fertitta told me about a home run his son Blake hit that morning. It was a towering shot that soared over the fence and crashed the back window of the Pearland coach's car. The ball wound up in the car's cup holder. That's what you call adding insult to injury. "I've never seen anything like it," Tilman said.

Fertitta was an intense Little League dad. He rattled off the boys' statistics, knew everything about the other teams and generally was on top of every detail. He hasn't changed, just bigger toys to play with now.

There are rumors that the Rockets are shopping Russell Westbrook and every other player not named James Harden. And there are whispers about Harden, too.

Oh, and if all that weren't enough pins and needles for you, there's a little election happening today. Good luck making it to tomorrow.

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The Astros have assigned left-handed reliever Matt Gage to minor league camp, which means Houston's pitching staff is likely to head into the season without a lefty in the bullpen.

Ronel Blanco and Seth Martinez are expected to be the last two pitchers in the Astros bullpen now that Gage isn't expected to fill a spot on the club. With the Astros playing so many games in the month of April, could we see Blanco or Martinez making some starts with Lance McCullers still on the shelf?

Plus, should the Astros check in on Yuli Gurriel for some depth considering his versatility and the loss of Jose Altuve for the first couple months of the season? Gurriel still hasn't been added to the Marlins 40-man roster, which means he can opt out of his deal on Saturday if nothing changes.

Based on how things played out for Carlos Correa, the guys aren't very confident the Astros would change their stance on Yuli. But you never know.

Be sure to check out the video above as we break it all down!

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