Adding the veteran left-hander makes it easier to handle if Keuchel departs

Miley should have Astros fans smiling

Wade Miley could be a good add for the Astros. Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Astros signed Wade Miley this week to a one year, $4.5 million dollar contract and no one really seemed to be very excited. After all he doesn't throw 95 mph and hasn't won a Cy Young award, but if you dig a little deeper you might find that he could be the perfect replacement for Dallas Keuchel.

Miley, like Keuchel, is lefthanded and has been an all-star previously. More importantly, he has playoff experience just like Dallas and has performed well when on the big stage. He is coming off arguably his best year as a pro as he was 5-2 with the Brewers with a 2.57 ERA. He had four starts in last year's playoff run for Milwaukee and had a stellar 1.23 ERA combined for the Divisional series and the NLCS.

He has never really pitched for a dominant team over the course of his eight-year career, yet his numbers have been steady and he has managed to stay relatively injury free. The opportunity to play for the Astros gives him a chance to play for a contender that has a potent offense, an above average defense and a pitching coach that has proven to be a major factor in resurrecting pitchers' careers. If all goes as planned, he could be the next in a line of veteran pitchers who have found success after coming to H-town.

Making subtle changes to a pitcher' s delivery, mechanics and approach to the craft have been a staple of Brent Strom's role as pitching coach for the Astros. He has been a driving force behind Keuchel's career and Dallas has always been quick to give him credit, particularly when he was interviewed after Houston won the World Series. Strom was singled out and credited with using his lower half more and pinpointing his release point. The two of them spent hours and hours watching videotape and scouring previous starts to find keys to his success and cures for his failures.

Aside from Keuchel, Strom has found success working with Charlie Morton, Gerritt Cole, and Colin McHugh, helping them add spin rate and velocity to their pitches while making them more effective on the mound. Pairing Miley with Strom can do nothing but help the veteran pitcher carry over his success from last season and build on it as he attempts to help the Astros get to another World Series title.

Maybe the deciding factor between bringing in a free agent like Miley and letting a fan favorite like Keuchel walk is the finances. Agent Scott Boras has been trying to formulate a contract in the neighborhood of 5 years and $100 million dollars for his client and that seems to be far too expensive for Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane. With Justin Verlander joining Cole as free agents at the end of the 2019 season, there doesn't seem to be enough money to go around for the third starter in AJ Hinch's rotation.

Miley's contract is very team friendly and it doesn't hinder the franchise going forward when they have some tough negotiations ahead with their top two aces. Saving over $15 million dollars on this year's rotation also allows the team flexibility this season if another free agent bat is targeted or the always-in-demand bullpen arm is considered.

As good as Keuchel has been and for as long as he has been here, it seems as if the time has come to let him find a home for the next chapter in his career that will pay him what he wants and believes he deserves. Meanwhile, the Astros can insert Miley as his replacement with hopes that he will solidify a rotation that lost Morton to free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. to injury while expecting Kuechel to be signing elsewhere soon. If he does, you should wish him well and thank him for helping to bring a title to Houston. If for some crazy reason he is willing to consider giving the Astros a hometown discount on a short term deal, then the rotation could be that much better. Either way, Jeff Luhnow and the 'Stros have all their bases covered.

Justin Verlander will get the Opening Day nod. Bob Levey/Getty Images

If you're not into basketball, or maybe just not into college basketball until March Madness gets here or the NBA until playoff time, man is this a sucky time of the sports year.

It will soon get better, with the Astros like all Major League teams having thrown open the doors to spring training. Less than six weeks away now to Opening Day, for the Astros that will be in St. Petersburg against the Rays. Barring a spring misfortune either way the Opening Day matchup will have American League Cy Young Award runner-up Justin Verlander pitching opposite AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. In game two Gerrit Cole will certainly go for the Astros, you'd think the Rays counter with their 30 million dollar free agent addition, ex-Astro Charlie Morton.

The biggest roster issues for the Astros to decide in Florida, aren't very big. Who wins the job as fifth man in the starting rotation? Going in that's seemingly advantage Josh James with Framber Valdez and Brad Peacock as the alternatives. For now. Someone who is part of the Astros' rotation once the season gets here is a placeholder. Unless something goes wrong, super stud prospect Forrest Whitley arrives in the majors this year, though not until at least June. Barring a dire need, the Astros will keep Whitley in the minors long enough to push back his salary arbitration eligibility a year. The Astros also have a last spot or two in their bullpen to determine.

Among the non-pitchers, the single biggest story line should be Carlos Correa's back. Correa was simply a bad player while ailing the second half of last season. It would be a horrible thing if at 24 years old Correa has recurring back problems. If he does not one would presume he gets back on track toward superstardom. Jose Altuve should be fine coming off knee surgery, the same expected for Alex Bregman working back from elbow surgery.

As in life few things in baseball are guaranteed. But given good health and their seemingly weak AL West competition, as the Astros start spring training, they're close to a guarantee to end up in the postseason for the third year in a row.

Cougars keep rolling

It's 24-1 for the Houston Cougars after they ground down UConn in the second half Thursday night. Sunday they play at the joke that is Tulane (4-19, 0-11 in conference). When the new polls come out Monday UH will move up to at least number seven in the nation.The Coogs are clearly the biggest college hoops story in Texas this season, but props to Sam Houston State. The Bearkats enter the weekend as one of only four teams in Division One undefeated in conference play. The other three: Tennessee, Gonzaga, and…Wofford.

Texans miss out?

So when it comes to your sports teams, how flexible is your morality? The Texans could use an upgrade at running back. Lamar Miller had a decent 2018 season, though he faded down the stretch with four straight ineffective performances. Yes the Texans offensive line was terrible, but a better back than Miller would presumably have been more productive. If the Texans keep Lamar Miller for 2019 his salary is five and a half million dollars.

Until Monday, Kareem Hunt was available, for roughly 20 to 25 percent of Miller's salary. Then the Cleveland Browns signed him. As a rookie with the Chiefs in 2017 Hunt led the NFL in rushing. He was having another fantastic season in 2018, when a video surfaced of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel last February. Turned out Hunt had lied to the Chiefs about the incident and they decided to release him. Hunt is currently on NFL suspension. He will come off though and the Browns will then add a sensational talent on the cheap. Hunt signed a one year deal reportedly for about one million dollars which actually will be a raise for him over what his original Kansas City contract would have paid.

So the Texans could have had Hunt for, say, a million and a half. They'd have added a running back more explosive than the Texans have ever had. And saved about four million dollars in the process by cutting Miller. Would you have signed Hunt? Or would no player guilty of such loser punk behavior ever have a place on your team?

There is no indication that the Texans showed interest. But don't go crazy proclaiming them paragons of integrity. In 2017 the Texans celebrated Brian Cushing's return from his second NFL suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. They recently hired Cushing as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Morality judgments come on a sliding scale.

Buzzer Beaters

1. James Harden's ongoing streak of 30+ point games is astounding. The extreme ball domination also often makes the Rockets a tedious watch. 2. The Rockets hit the All Star Break one game closer to the draft lottery than to third place in the West. That is stunning, though there is virtually no way they miss the playoffs. Right? 3. NBA Valentine's Day shout-outs: Bronze-Kevin and Bob Love Silver-Roses: Jalen, Derrick, and Malik Gold-Valentines: Denzell and Darnell.

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