FALCON POINTS

If the Texans are sellers at the trade deadline, here's who could be moved

The deadline is right around the corner. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

There is a huge day coming in early November. And no, not the election; the NFL trade deadline. The Texans could be 1-6 by then, and should be sellers at the deadline. But with no GM in place other than Jack Easterby, who signed off on the ridiculous DeAndre Hopkins trade, it's unlikely anything will happen, and if it does, we can assume the Texans get the wrong end of it.

But if they were to field offers, here's who they could move to recoup lost draft stock:

THE BIG NAMES UNLIKELY TO MOVE

1) J.J. Watt: It seems unlikely the Texans would move Watt, a Houston sports icon. But they would also be doing him a favor by sending him to a contender. Most teams that would want Watt are near the cap, though, and taking on Watt's salary would be problematic. But he would have value to a top team and if the Texans were willing to move him, he would bring the best return.

2) Whitney Mercilus: Overpaid and underproductive, getting out from under his deal would be a win for the Texans. Teams covet pass rushers, and Mercilus has a reputation for that, even if it is undeserved. The Texans would take a warm bucket of spit for him.

3) Zach Cunningham: Another player the Texans would love to dump just to get out from under his horrible contract. He has been terrible this year, but in a better system he might help a team. Unlikely to happen, but maybe there's a sucker out there.

4) Bradley Roby: Productive corners are always valuable, and Roby could be of great help to a team. It might be better to keep him around, but a nice offer should not be ignored.

5) Will Fuller: This would be the best player to move. Fuller is in a contract year and is playing well, but he will break again soon, and getting him moved before that would make sense. It would also make sense before they give him a big contract for one year of production. Would be a rental for a team, but any team needing a wideout might bite.

SMALLER NAMES THAT COULD MORE LIKELY BE MOVED

1) The other receivers: Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb have value, but Cobb's contract makes that unlikely. Cooks could be moved as a rental and a team could easily drop him next year. Kenny Stills might have some value for a team as well.

2) Zach Fulton/Senio Kelemete/Nick Martin: Several teams are desperate with offensive line injuries. While none of these players are above average, they could be key pieces for teams who have had bulk injuries on the line. While not the sexiest names, they could have some value, and the Texans could move on from one and not really miss a beat.

While moves are unlikely, if the Texans could get some draft picks back, it would give the new GM some instant capital to work with. Most of these guys could be replaced with cheaper, better options. It's unlikely anything happens, but the Texans would have options.

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The Astros will have some new rules to adjust to in 2023. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

If you are savvy enough to read next week’s column, you will be doing so with spring training underway in Florida and Arizona. Hip, hip, hooray! Astros pitchers and catchers have their first workout scheduled for next Thursday, with the full squad due early the following week ahead of games starting February 25. Spring training baseball is not meant to be exciting, but the major rules changes that will take effect this season will be in full effect in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, making spring games more interesting to follow.

The biggest change is the death of infield shifts. As reminder or to get up to speed, the first and second baseman must now always be aligned on the first base side of second while the shortstop and third baseman must both be on the third base side of second. Plus, all infielders must have both feet on the dirt of the infield.

There are legitimate points to be made as to why shifts should be allowed, and also why modifying the rules makes sense. I get the argument that if hitters can’t take advantage of an open side of the infield, shame on them. However, taking advantage of a shift is not as easy as it looks.

The best argument against shifts is that they clearly more penalized left-handed hitters. You think Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez will miss losing some hits on balls smashed on one hop 30 or 40 feet into the outfield only to have a second baseman make the play? If once every other week Tuck or Yordan picks up a hit that the shift would have taken away, over 500 at bats, that’s about a 25 point difference in batting average. Defenses couldn’t shift in the same fashion against right-handed hitters because unless the batter/runner has Martin Maldonado or Albert Pujols level (non)speed, throwing guys out at first from 30 or 40 feet out in left field is not viable.

Welcome the pitch clock. There will be griping from some pitchers and hitters. Suck it up buttercups! Adapt or die. In the minor leagues the pitch clock knocked off 20-25 minutes from the average game length. The average big league game should not take more than three hours. For darn sure a 3-1 or 4-2 game shouldn’t take more than three hours.

With no runners on base a pitcher has 15 seconds from when he gets the ball to start his motion, with runner(s) on base 20 seconds. Failure to comply is an automatic ball. It’s called the pitch clock but batters are on notice too. There is simply no need for batters to be stepping out of the batter’s box to contemplate the meaning of life every pitch or two. Batters not in the box and ready when the clock gets down to eight seconds get an automatic strike. There are several exceptions, such as a batter gets one timeout per plate appearance,

The bases themselves are 20 percent larger. Instead of 15 inches square they are now 18 inches square which serves a couple of purposes. There will be a bit more space for infielders to avoid baserunners at the bags. That’s sensible. We’ve all heard “Baseball is a game of inches.” Legendary General Manager Branch Rickey is credited with coining the phrase. Rickey is also the guy who brought Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues, and the guy who basically invented the farm system.

Anyway, back to game of inches. The larger bases shorten the distance between first and second, and second and third base, by four and a half inches. A massive change it is not, but a meaningful change it is. Think of the close calls on stolen base attempts, or a runner going from first to third on a single. It’s not mastering advanced calculus to get that a shorter distance between bases makes it easier to successfully get to the next one. Anything that increases the value of speed in the game is a good thing.

Base stealing will also be impacted by the new pickoff limitations rule. Say Jose Altuve leads off with a single. Up comes Jeremy Pena. The pitcher gets two “disengagements” during Pena’s at bat. Pickoff attempts and stepping off the rubber both count as “disengagement.” A third disengagement not resulting in a pickoff is an automatic balk. Does Altuve take a huge lead to draw pickoff throws knowing that after two non-pickoffs he gets a big advantage?

Might any unintended consequences result from the rules changes? Let’s find out.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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