THE LONGER HOUSTON WAITS TO MAKE A MOVE, THE HIGHER THE PRICE WILL GO.

The time is now for Astros to get in the arms race and get their man

Composite photo by Jack Brame

When Brad Peacock was scratched from his start against the Angels Monday night due to lingering shoulder issues it should have been the final straw. After Framber Valdez couldn't get out of the first inning in his start against the Rangers last week and the Jose Urquidy experiment failed to impress, the writing is all over the wall that Houston needs to get into the arms race and trade for pitching help before the prices go up and the teams involved do too. The time is now for GM Jeff Luhnow to make a move for a starting pitcher or two and beat the heat that is sure to be straight fire by the time we hit the final week in July. With only one trade deadline this year and so many teams within striking distance of a wild card at the very least, it would seem to me that the sooner the Astros can complete a deal for the main weakness remaining on the roster, the better off the squad will be.

Astros Forrest Whitley, Josh James Composite photo by Jack Brame

The Yankees are the main competition for the Astros in the race for best record in the American League and home field advantage will go a long way in deciding which of the two teams gets out of the AL with a birth in the World Series and the other goes home wishing they had been able to do more. New York is also Houston's number one competition in the sprint to obtain starting pitching before the trade deadline at the end of July. The Yanks are rumored to be in the market for not one, but two starting pitchers to solidify the biggest weakness on thier club and compliment the powerful and destructive offensive lineup they fill out their batting order with on a nightly basis. The Red Sox and Athletics have already made moves to strengthen their rotation with the addition of Andrew Cashner and Homer Baily respectively. When you factor in the numerous teams in the National League that are within shouting distance of a Wild Card, including the Reds and Diamondbacks and others that started the year not given a chance to sniff the post season, it becomes even more imperative that the 'Stros act fast and avoid the rush. Houston loves their top prospects and Luhnow has been very cautious when considering trades that involve his blue chip youngsters like Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley. Teams that are going to be sellers are ecstatic that so many teams may be in the market to buy at the deadline, which will cause bidding wars and the inevitable urge to over pay to guarantee they get the help they desperately need for a stretch run.

Astros Gerrit Cole Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Depending on the contract status of the players Luhnow and the Astros are interested in, the price will fluctuate accordingly. A player under contract for a few more years will have a much higher price tag than a player in the final year of his deal who will be looked at as a rental more than a long term solution to a short-term need. Houston isn't quite sure how much of a long-term need they will have, but do realize that Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley are free agents in the offseason and there's some uncertainty as to how healthy and capable Lance McCullers will be next season as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Peacock and Colin McHugh have not had the season that the organization expected and therefore there are more question marks than answers for their long-term future as potential arms in the rotation. All of this on top of thier other top pitching prospect Corbin Martin shelved for the foreseeable future after he was diagnosed with arm issues serious enough to require his own Tommy John surgery. It's crazy to think that a position group that was universally looked at as one of the best rotations in the game could now be facing a dilemma of needing to make at least one move for a starter to keep them in contention to compete for the AL crown.

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Some possibilities that are on the market and could help Houston in thier starting pitching issues are Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray and Matthew Boyd, with the longshot being Noah Syndergaard if the Mets become sellers and decide to make the power pitcher available. Of those mentioned, Bumgarner would be a rental and cost the least while Syndergaard would probably cost the most due to his experience, contract and productivity on a really bad team. One other factor to keep in mind is the Astros have found the Blue Jays to be a friendly trade partner in recent moves that included Roberto Osuna and Aledmys Diaz. I say that to say that Marcus Stroman is a quality arm that the Blue Jays will almost certainly move before the deadline and if the two sides can work something out again, he would be just what the doctor ordered to boost the Astros staff and solidify their patchwork starting rotation. Regardless of who they like and who Luhnow targets, the time is now to act fast and get the guy you want before you get in a bidding war and get caught holding the bag instead of all the cards.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

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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