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!

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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