Texans GM confronts rumors, reveals intriguing draft options for Houston

Nick Caserio met with the media on Monday. Composite image by Brandon Strange, photos by Getty Images.

Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio addressed the rumors that he could leave the organization shortly after the 2023 NFL Draft on Monday.

His response to the rumors was right out of the page of Jordan Belfort.

“Quite frankly, I am almost embarrassed that I have to say anything,” Caserio said. “I mean, honestly, I feel like Leonardo DiCaprio on The Wolf of Wall Street, but I’m not leaving. There has never really been any substantive discussions of the sort.”

The rumor that Caserio could be on the move and head back to New England first originated from Michael Lombardi, an NFL insider, who said there could be some drastic movement within the Texans’ organization after the draft.

As is the case this time of year, albeit not usually relating to executives, the report grew into speculation that Caserio was potentially leaving the Texans just two years into his takeover of the organization as its general manager.

Over the course of the past few days, Caserio said the speculations have left him “literally laughing.” He doubled down by saying he has no idea where the source of the rumor came from.

“I can’t speak for anybody else other than myself, so I mean again, maybe you can do some digging on that,” Caserio told reporters. “My focus is on the draft. It is on the people in this building. It is on the coaching staff and my responsibility is to the people that are here.”

Houston has a plethora of draft capital in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, including the No. 2 overall pick, which will be crucial in filling the roster with future cornerstone players.

While Caserio said he has no plans of going anywhere, who the Texans pick at No. 2, or how they choose to utilize the selection, could ultimately end up tying into how long Caserio is the general manager for Houston.

With the draft just 10 days away, he revealed that the team has received calls for the second overall pick. While Caserio did not say what the offers or conversations for the pick have been, he did say Houston is leaving all doors open.

“Are we open for business? I would say we are open to listening … I think our responsibility is to listen, try to take the information in and try to make the right decision,” Caserio said.

With five picks in the first 73 selections, and Houston also owning a top fourth-round pick, Caserio stated there likely will be movement up or down at some point for the Texans over the course of the three days.

Whether that is as early as Houston’s top pick or later in the draft, only time will tell. The ultimate motivator behind any deals will be because the Texans are making a move to acquire a player that checks all the boxes to what Caserio and head coach DeMeco Ryans deem important.

“We won't eliminate anything. We’ll just try to make good decisions,” Caserio said.

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The Astros are utilizing a 6-man rotation. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros should schedule an Old-Timers Game, if not annually maybe every other year. Only the Yankees have regularly played Old Timers Games and it’s a highlight in the Bronx every season. The Astros have plenty enough history to welcome back an ample number of guys to make for a fabulous event. Maybe they could tie it into their now annual Hall of Fame Weekend. Anyway, don’t you feel that if Jose Altuve took part in an Old Timers Game in 2050 he’d bang out a couple of hits, and then if the Astros played him in the regular game he’d line one more hit somehow, at age 60?

After missing the first 43 games of the season while recovering from his broken thumb, Altuve went 0 for four in his first game back, but has since been generally fantastic with his OPS through nine games played at 1.013. It won’t stay that high, but Altuve is a direly needed upgrade to the Astros’ offense which has been utterly mediocre. Offense is the reason the Astros continue to look up at the Texas Rangers in the American League West. The Rangers’ offense has been fantastic, outscoring the Astros by a whopping 100 runs through the first third of the season.

As the regular season entered its middle third this week, the Astros are in the middle of playing a game in 17 consecutive days. It’s their longest stretch of the season without an off day. They are inserting Ronel Blanco as a sixth starting pitcher in the rotation for a couple of turns. The point of mixing in a sixth starter isn’t that the Astros are teeming with guys who belong in a big league rotation. The 29-year-old Blanco is not a notable prospect. This is about lightening the load a little on two guys: Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown.

In becoming a rotation mainstay last season, Javier blew past his previous biggest season workload by nearly 50 innings. He’s on pace to go another 25 innings beyond that this year without even accounting for the playoffs. Hunter Brown last year set his professional high with 130 innings pitched encompassing work with the Space Cowboys and Astros. Brown is on pace for about 170 innings this regular season. That’s a significant jump, and of course the Astros are hoping for another postseason of multiple rounds. Javier, Brown, and Framber Valdez are the three most critical pitchers on the staff, and the Astros hope they remain healthily so for several more years.

Lance McCullers’s latest recovery setback makes his plight increasingly sad. Well, except for him on payday. The odds now lopsidedly favor McCullers never again pitching a near fully healthy and effective season. His only one to date was 2021 (until he broke down in the playoffs), the year before his five year 85 million dollar contract kicked in. McCullers pulls down 17 mil this year (And again next year. And in 2025. And 2026), exactly two and a half times what Framber Valdez makes. I reckon Framber’s representation is aware of this, as it is of the five year 63 million dollar deal the Astros struck with Cristian Javier. Framber is more than three years older than Javier, but has been better, and can hit free agency after the 2025 season, the same time Javier could have gone to market.

Timing isn’t everything but it darn sure can matter. The Astros’ two best relief pitchers through May were Hector Neris and Phil Maton. Neris enters June with a 1.19 earned run average, Maton even better with a teeny-weeny 0.68 ERA. Maton has been especially amazing, given that last year while not pitching very well he posted his career best ERA at 3.84. His 2022 ended ignominiously when after giving up a hit to his brother Nick in the regular season finale, Phil took the ding-a-ling of the week award by breaking his pitching hand punching his locker, sidelining him for the postseason. The Hurt Locker won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2010. Now Maton is up for Best Pitcher (per inning worked). Both Neris and Maton were James Click acquisitions. Both become free agents after this season.

Up next

Four games with the Angels at Minute Maid Park through the weekend mean the amazing Shohei Ohtani is in town. It’s “Sho-time” on the mound Friday night in a doozy of a pitching matchup with Framber, with Ohtani batting in at least three of the four games. In one player the Angels have a pitcher as good as Cristian Javier and a hitter better than Kyle Tucker. And the Angels will probably miss the playoffs again anyway. And then lose Ohtani in free agency. After the Angels series the Astros are on the road next week. They start with four games at Toronto against the Blue Jays’ very potent lineup, then it’s three at Cleveland vs. the Guardians whose offense has been pathetic so far this season.

Walk this way

Geek Astro factoid of the week: Jeremy Pena drew two walks in Tuesday’s win over the Twins. In his rookie season, Pena had only one two walk game, also in May, also against the Twins. Tuesday’s bases on balls finally got Pena into double digits for the season. He has just 11 walks drawn (largely explaining his weak .307 on-base percentage) vs. 50 strikeouts.

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