How Houston Astros 'catcher of the future' could be put on hold

It's no surprise that Justin Verlander's return to the Houston Astros will have massive implications for the team not only this season, but heading into next year and beyond.

While Houston GM Dana Brown has said that Yainer Diaz is the catcher of the future, would anyone be surprised if Martin Maldonado returns to the Astros in 2024? And if he does, what would keep him from catching Verlander, and Framber Valdez if they want him in that role? Hey, let's be honest, we know for a fact that they do. Verlander and Framber love throwing to him.

We also know Maldy was working to get JV back to the Astros, catcher Korey Lee was traded to Chicago in the Kendall Graveman deal, and Machete once again proved his worth by calling the pitches for Framber's no-hitter.

The Astros are obviously all in to win a championship in 2023 and 2024, so bringing Maldy back for one more year seems more likely than not. Especially if Dusty Baker has anything to say about it.

Which brings up another question. Does Verlander's return all but assure Dusty Baker AND Maldonado are locks to return in 2024? And if they do come back, it's hard to see Dusty naming Diaz the starter over Maldy when he's been reluctant to do so this year, despite Maldonado's glaring offensive and defensive struggles.

Let's make this clear, this isn't a conversation about what we think they should do. This is about how we see things playing out based on what the Astros and Baker have shown us over the last several years.

We would actually be open to Maldonado returning, if he truly is the backup and only catching about twice a week. But we could see Dusty leaning on his veteran catcher for one more year if it's his call in the end.

Perhaps there could be a compromise between Dana Brown and Dusty. Brown could agree to bring Maldonado back if Dusty agrees to play Diaz at catcher for at least three out of every five starts. Something we've been clamoring for over the last few months.

Be sure to watch the video above as we project how this situation could unfold heading into next season.

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The Texans host the Steelers at NRG this Sunday. Composite Getty Image.

What: Texans vs. Steelers

When: 10/1 12pm CST kickoff

Where: Houston, TX NRG Stadium

TV/Radio: KHOU-TV, KILT-Radio

Betting Lines: Steelers -2.5 (-120), O/U 42 (-110) *As of this writing

The Watt Brother Bowl takes place on Sunday. I'm calling it that because the Texans are honoring their all-time great J.J. while they're playing his younger brother and current hell raising edge rusher for the Steelers T.J. The Steelers have won four of the last five matchups vs. the Texans by an average score of 28-17. The biggest difference is that the Steelers have a second year starter at quarterback in Kenny Pickett, and the Texans have a rookie in C.J. Stroud. When you look at the two quarterbacks, both organizations have full faith in each guy. Both teams have tried to build a defense to help their young signal callers. Both are still trying to surround their franchise guys with weapons.

When the Steelers have the ball: Here's a game where Will Anderson Jr can make headway as a proven EDGE. Stacking consistent performances together and helping your team win games by making winning plays. It helps that Pickett has tiny hands. This was a knock on him during draft season last year. Hand size for a quarterback impacts grip. That can not only impact accuracy, but it could make it easier to strip the ball from him.

While he doesn't have the weapons to torch this defense, Pickett does hand the ball off to Najee Harris who's more than capable. Averaging only 67 yards rushing as a team can't be taken lightly. Denzel Perryman is expected to miss the game Sunday, so hopefully that won't help jumpstart the Steelers' run game. The Texans defense will have to key in on the run, given that they average giving up 117 a game on the ground. Those aforementioned weapons may not be scary, but the injuries to the defensive backs has hurt. Tavierre Thomas is expected to miss the game recovering from hand surgery. Jimmie Ward coming back last week showed what happens when they have a top safety back there, especially when the pass rush is turning up. Hopefully, the Texans can capitalize again this week, with safety Jalen Pitre expected to return to action.

When the Texans have the ball: Good luck stopping Tank Dell and Stroud! These guys have already established themselves as a formidable duo three games into their careers. A great way to get that connection going is to pound the rock. The Steelers are giving up over 150 yards on the ground per game so far this season. That's also a good way to keep T.J. at bay while J.J. watches. With Laremy Tunsil and Josh Jones both expected to miss the game, here are the offensive line starters: Austin Deculus, Kendrick Green, Jarrett Patterson, Shaq Mason, and George Fant.

Making the younger Watt brother slow down a bit instead of going balls to the wall after Stroud because a run could be coming will help the pass game tremendously. Stroud will have to continue to make quick decisions, but even quicker this game. I wouldn't be surprised to see his first pick of his career here, given the pressure he's most likely to be under. Especially when your offensive line starters were mostly all backups to begin this season.

Outcome: I failed to place a money line bet on the Texans last week because the game started and the live bet wasn't as profitable. I wanted to take a chance on them given their recent record against the Jags. Looking at their last five vs. the Steelers, one would say why make that bet this week? It's because I believe in Stroud more than I believe in Pickett. While T.J. Watt is a different kind of monster, Will Anderson Jr is on his way to becoming something special. Texans win/cover, and hit the over, but barely: Texans 24, Steelers 20.

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