A MAJOR DEAL?

Report of Astros acquiring starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pirates was premature

Gerrit Cole is reportedly going to be an Astro. Sbnation.com

The Astros bid to repeat as World Series champions appeared to get a big boost on Wednesday. And then it didn't. The Astros reportedly acquired Pittsbugh Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole for prospects. The deal was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network and confirmed by several other MLB sources.

However, Jeff Passan of Yahoo disputed the report. Several others joined him in shooting down the deal. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, the best source of all, also disputed the report.

 "We have talked to several teams about possible trades," Luhnow told Passan. "At this point, nothing is imminent."

He also told Mark Berman of Fox Sports that "We are talking to some free agents and some teams about possible deals.  As of right now, nothing is close enough to become newsworthy."

Morosi never updated his tweets, but did write a story that backed off his assertion that the deal was agreed upon.

If the deal does get done, this is a great move for the Astros. The 27-year-old Cole had a down season last year, with a career-worst 4.26 ERA. But he is under team control for two more seasons and for his career he is 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA. 

The move for Cole would open up all kinds of possibilities. A 1-2-3 of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Cole will match up with anyone. The depth would be stronger with Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh and potentially Brad Peacock behind them. It frees the Astros up to move Peacock to the bullpen full time, and perhaps even consider McCullers as a closer. It also provides insurance in case Keuchel bolts after next season.

Morosi pointed out on Twitter that Cole's arbitration filing deadline is Friday and the Astros wanted to have the deal done so that they could do it at their own number. 

It would be a strong move that should only make the Astros better in 2018. With a full season of Verlander and the addition of Cole, the Astros are poised to make another magical run. If it gets done, of course.

 

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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