MOVES ARE NOT A NECESSITY, BUT COULD REALLY HELP THE TEAM PUSH FOR ANOTHER TITLE

Luhnow says Astros looking for a starter and a catcher; what about a reliever?

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Jeff Luhnow met the media Monday before the start of the Astros home game with the hard-charging Oakland A's and told everyone within earshot that the team would like to add a starting pitcher and a catcher before the trade deadline at the end of the month. With all the injuries to the starting pitchers that had given Luhnow and AJ Hinch the gluttony of riches a year ago of so many to pitchers to chose from, it has become evident that help is needed to fill out the rotation before they hit the stretch run towards the playoffs. Justin Verlander, Wade Miley, and Gerrit Cole are firmly entrenched at the top of the staff, but help is needed to replace the injured Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock, as well as the one-time starter Collin McHugh who is now back in the bullpen. The young arms on the farm system were given a chance, but they cannot be counted on for consistency and quality starts when the playoffs roll around and any slip up is magnified and could be the difference between advancing and being sent home. With all the big named starting pitchers on the market this year, there are plenty of options and varying contract terms out there to chose from as Luhnow attempts to make a deal.

Adding a catcher makes sense

After getting off to a red-hot start and close consideration for a spot on the All-Star team, catcher Robinson Chirinos has cooled off at the plate and needs to catch a few days off behind the plate to assure he is fresh for the playoffs. He has been better than expected and has the total trust and confidence of the pitching staff, but the team does not want him catching 3 games in a row and Max Stassi has not been able to step up and carry the torch when called on this season, battling through injuries and inconsistencies. Luhnow was hot after ex-Astro Martim Maldanado before the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Royals a few weeks back. That has left Luhnow and his staff to scour the market and see who else is out there, available and not too expensive to obtain. The goal is to save the top prospects and only consider a move for one of them if it is for a front line starter that has some level of remaining team control. Trading for a catcher would not seem to be an option for the likes of Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley or any other top prospect in the Houston system. Ideally, the team would prefer to part with a younger player down on the farm or a more experienced player with some major league experience that isn't in their plans for this season or in the short term.

You can't have too many arms 

The newest concern for the team seems to be in the bullpen where the arms are starting to run thin with injuries and extended use and AJ Hinch getting so concerned that he actually gave Ryan Pressly a full series off against the Rangers. Josh James was the latest casualty after he was taken out of the game Sunday with concerns of arm fatigue, velocity issues and a fear that there may be more to the diagnosis than just too many appearances recently. As long as Luhnow and his staff have time before the deadline, why not explore the options out there to add another arm to the mix in the bullpen? Hinch does not have the plethora of options he once had not too long ago when he walks to the mound to get one of his starters. Hector Rondon has really struggled of late and has been susceptible to the long ball while giving up 9 earned runs in his last 5.2 innings pitched. Chris Devinsky is a shell of his All-Star season of a few years ago and Will Harris has had a rough month of July after a steady start to the season. McHugh has been injured most of the year and Joe Smith just rejoined the team earlier this month after being out the entire year after Achilles surgery. The younger guys like James and Framber Valdez have been very inconsistent and not what the organization had hoped for heading into the season. I say all of this to say that Luhnow and his staff should leave no stone unturned and try to add another arm or two to the pen as long as they are out there and active in the trade market. The hope would be to find a seller that is looking to rebuild and would only require a low-level prospect or two to get a deal done. At the end of the day, a division title is not the end goal for this team and anything short of another World Series appearance would be viewed by most observers as a disappointment. Jeff Luhnow it's time for you to play the role of Monty Hall and get on the phone to find teams willing and able to trade. Let's make a deal, or two or maybe even three so that this team can finish what it started and write some more history for H-Town and Astros fans everywhere!

Houston Astros/Facebook

The Astros had a bad 4-6 road trip and looked forward to getting home to Minute Maid Park where they have been dominant this season. The pitiful Detroit Tigers arrived in Houston with a record since the All Star Break of nine wins and 27 losses. They literally do not have one non-pitcher who would make a healthy Astros' roster. That includes the way over the hill sure fire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Splitting four games at home with the Tigers would have been a fail. The Astros did not fail, though "only" taking three out of four seems a little disappointing. The S.S. Astros Good Ship Lollipop has sprung a couple of leaks. Neither that can't be plugged with good health, but the Astros have two notable health issues.

Carlos Correa's next endorsement deal should be for peanut brittle, emphasis not on the peanut. Some guys just have a propensity toward getting injured. Unfortunately the Correa resume grows that he is one of those guys. That back problems have resurfaced is troubling, to no one more so than Correa himself. It's clear the guy loves the game and is spectacularly talented, but durability is one component of greatness and to this point Correa simply has not demonstrated durability. If he can't produce a fully healthy bigtime season or two in the next year or two, any visions of a Manny Machado-like 10 year 300 million dollar contract will be up in smoke. Still, Correa turns only 25 years old next month so there's time to prove sturdiness, but more sand has seeped through the hourglass. For the 2019 Astros the dropdown is huge from Correa at shortstop to either Miles Straw or Aledmys Diaz being in the lineup. As for 2020, please tell anyone saying the Astros should trade Correa to be quiet.

The loss of Ryan Pressly for most if not all of the rest of the regular season is a big blow to the bullpen. Of even bigger concern is whether he can get back and get sharp to start the postseason.

This doesn't mean the ship is sinking. The Astros enter the weekend just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, and the Astros own the tiebreaker (having won the season series 4-3). They are three back of the Dodgers for best in MLB, the Astros have a three game lead in the tiebreaker with LA (intradivision record). The Yankees play at the Dodgers this weekend so if you're a glass half full person: a Dodger or Yankee loss is guaranteed three days in a row! If you're glass half empty: a Dodger or Yankee win is guaranteed three days in a row!

NFL on the horizon

A little over 2 weeks until the Texans begin their 18th season of play in the National Football League. We've all heard the saying, the 18th time is the charm. So is this the season the Texans are finally a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not. The Texans do not look like a notably improved football team. On paper their schedule is clearly more difficult than last season's. Within the AFC the Chiefs clearly have more overall talent and are better coached. The Patriots still exist. One of these years Tom Brady really will slip. Maybe at age 42 this is the season.

If Jadeveon Clowney opts to sit out, or is traded, anyone thinking he won't be missed, is wrong. Clowney is not a superstar but he's really good. The Texans will be easier to run on without him. And while not an elite pass rusher, Clowney has to be accounted for. Anyone thinking, ah, he's hurt all the time anyway…wrong again. Clowney missed one game last season, and the season before that he played in every game.

If you want a couple of reasons for plausible optimism, here you go. Coming off of last season Deshaun Watson does not rate as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He could well vault into that echelon this season. The Texans' offensive line remains something between a question mark and a glaring weakness, but really, can it be worse than it was the last couple of seasons? DeAndre Hopkins is about as good as it gets today at wide receiver, the same for J.J. Watt at defensive end though the clock is ticking down on his prime.

The Texans probably begin their season by losing at New Orleans. On the other hand the Buccaneers started their 5-11 2018 season by beating the 13-3 to be Saints in New Orleans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Connor McGregor pitches some "number 12" brand of whisky. As a human being he seems much more a piece of number two. 2. Two peas in a pitching pod: Justin Verlander 15-5, 2.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole 15-5, 2.75 ERA, 238 strikeouts. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


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